The last time a musher from the Kuskokwim finished in the top three in the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog race was in 1993. Now Mike Williams Jr. of Akiak and Pete Kaiser of Bethel are shaking up the field of big name racers with some big runs of their own.
Each year the K300 draws a thick concentration of accomplished dog mushers. They come not only to challenge their dogs, but perhaps even more compelling is the $100,000 dollar purse. It’s an unrivaled prize in mid-distance racing.
With so many world-class competitors making the trip to Bethel for the K300, usually local racers have to settle for a finish towards the middle of the field.
But by arriving second into the Tuluksak checkpoint Mike Williams Jr. is doing something no one from the Y-K Delta has done in almost two decades, he’s threatened to win the entire race.
“It’s been my goal for some time now to finish in the top. So I’m not really surprised. I’m pretty content at this point.”
Williams came into the Tuluksak checkpoint trailing Gebhardt by just 22 minutes.
“I had a plan of what I wanted to do.” That plan was to cut time off of rests in Aniak on the outbound trip and Kalskag coming back. “So far that’s worked out pretty good.”
Meanwhile Pete Kaiser of Bethel is also pulling off his own impressive run. The 23-year–old from Bethel is likely to finish 3rd if he can maintain his position on his way to his hometown.
Conditions in the Y-K Delta this year may be helping the local racers. In many other areas of the state, racers have had to deal with low amounts of snowfall, or even dangerous cold. That limited the amount of miles some K300 racers were able to train this year.
And while conditions have not been ideal along the Kuskokwim this year, the region has had useable winter trails going back as far as November. That’s considerably earlier than the last few years and helped to level the field for local mushers and those coming from areas with typically superior training conditions.