40th K300 Sled Dog Race Mushers

A look back at 2018: Mushers raced on the tundra trail making a double loop for the K300 Race. Above is Jeff King leaving the chute on Charles Lake on starting night during last year's race. photo by Greg Lincoln

The Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog race is this Friday, January 18th. There are 19 mushers currently signed up for the race. As of Sunday, Matthew Failor, Ramey Smyth, and Nicolas Petit were racing the Copper Basin 300 which started on January 12th, 2019 in Gakona.

Matt Failor, Jessie Holmes, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, Ramey Smyth, Jeff King, Nicolas Petit, Wade Marrs, Aaron Burmeister, Travis Beals, and local mushers Victoria Hardwick, Peter Kaiser, and Richie Diehl are currently signed up for a run in the 2019 Iditarod.

Race Routing:

The race will start on the river in front of Bethel. Mushers will pass on through on the Kwethluk side on the Kuskokuak Slough and on up to Tuluksak. From there it will be the traditional route stopping in Aniak first before doing the Whitefish Lake loop.

2019 K300 Mushers

Matthew Failor, age 36, is from Willow, Alaska where he runs his kennel 17th-Dog. He is originally from Ohio where he grew up with his three brothers – they all earned Eagle Scout honors. Matt is a former handler for Martin Buser. He first ran the Iditarod in 2012 with a team of Buser’s Happy Trails puppies. Since then, he has run the Iditarod every year. He also was a finisher in the Kuskokwim 300 in 2011, placing 9th and was named Rookie of the Year. He is the 2018 K300 Humanitarian Award recipient.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom is 32 years old. Joar came in 2nd place last year in the K300. He hails from Norway and Willow, Alaska. Joar has run the K300 four times, this year will be his 5th. His kennel is the 50 dog Racing Beringia. Joar is the reigning Iditarod champion. He also won the 2012 and 2014 Nadezhda races in Kamchatka, Russia.

Nicolas Petit, age 38, is from Normandy but now lives in Girdwood, AK. Last year he took 2nd place in the Iditarod. He ran the K300 in 2016, placing 14th. In 2018 he won the Knik 200, Willow 300, Tustumena 200, the Copper Basin 300, and the Kobuk 440. He is the 2015 Humanitarian Award winner and the 2013 Most Improved musher for the Iditarod.

Jeff King, age 63, was born and raised in California, and moved to Alaska in 1975. His kennel, Husky Homestead, has 40 sled dogs. Jeff has won many races – the Yukon Quest victory in 1981, nine Kuskokwim 300s, and four Iditarods. He is also the author of “Cold Hands, Warm Heart: Alaskan Adventures of an Iditarod Champion”. In 2018 Jeff finished 3rd in the K300.

Wade Marrs, age 28, is from Willow, AK where he is raising his 40 dogs at his Stump Jumpin’ Kennel. Marrs has been racing since childhood. His best finish for the Iditarod was 4th place in 2016. Wade finished in 10th place during the 2017 K300. He is proud to race for Turner Syndrome Awareness.

Peter Kaiser, age 31, is from Bethel, Alaska and is the reigning K300 champion. He races for Team Kaiser and has won the past 4 Kuskokwim 300 races in a row, 2015-2018. He also has three 5th place Iditarod finishes: 2012, 2016, and 2018. Pete is a triple crown winner, having won the K300, Bogus Creek 150, and the Akiak Dash. In 2013 he won the Paul Johnson Memorial Race and in 2011 he won the Kobuk 440. He and his wife Bethany have two children, Ari and Aylee.

Mike Williams Jr., age 33, comes from the Williams mushing family of Akiak. This year will be his 13th race in the Kusko. In 2011 he placed 2nd, his highest finish. He is an eight time finisher of the Iditarod. In 2012, he placed in the top 10, finishing in eighth position. He also won the Sportsmanship Iditarod Award in 2014. Mike’s family runs the 60-dog Williams Racing Kennel. His family includes wife, Phyllis, sons, Paeton, Dan, and Kohle, and daughters Anna and Coraline.

Richie Diehl, age 33, hails from Aniak, Alaska where he was born and raised. This will be his 11th running of the Kusko. His kennel, Real Diehl Racing has 50 dogs. In 2017 he placed 3rd, his best finish. In 2012 he won the Best in the West Award and the Humanitarian Award in 2011. He has raced the Iditarod six times. Last year he crossed the finish line in 6th place, his best finish for the Iditarod. His family includes parents, Dave and Esther, sisters, Holly, Rainy and Dana, and girlfriend, Emerie.

David Fitka, age 57, is from Marshall, Alaska. He has 24 dogs in his Snappy Foot Kennel on the Yukon. David is no stranger to the K300, he previous ran it including in 2007. He’s also run the Bogus Creek 150. David also runs local sprint races with his family which includes Elizabeth, Kim, Jay, Daniel, Kenneth, Harley & David.

Victoria Hardwick, age 33, is from Bethel where she runs her kennel of 16 dogs. She grew up in Colville, Washington. Victoria has been mushing since 2014. This will be her third time running the K300. She has also run the Bogus Creek 150, the Akiak Dash, and other local races. She won the Rookie of the Year award in the 2015 Bogus Creek 150. This year she will be running the Iditarod as a rookie.

Aaron Burmeister, age 43, comes to the K300 from Nome, AK. He has been mushing all his life. His kennel, Alaska Wildstyle Racing, has 40 dogs. This year will be Aaron’s eight run in the K300. He is a 2012 Humanitarian Award winner. He has also run the Iditarod many times since 1994 and will race again this year. Aaron’s best Iditarod finish was in 2015 when he placed 3rd. He has won many awards including the Sportsmanship award in 2009 and the Mushers Choice award in 2014.

Jessie Holmes, age 36, is from Nenana, AK. He is originally from Alabama. He has 75 dogs in his Can’t Stop Kennel. A 10 year veteran of mushing, Jessie raced the K300 in 2017 and also 2018. He is the 2016 Yukon Quest Champion. Last year he placed 7th in his rookie race of the Iditarod. Jessie, who enjoys participating in ultra-marathons, also appears on the show “Life Below Zero”.

Dennis Kananowicz, age 42, hails from Glennallen, AK and is originally from Illinois. He first began mushing in 1998 and has 29 dogs in his Outlaw Kennel. Dennis first ran the K300 back in 2004. He also ran the Iditarod in 2004, the Tustumena 200, and the Copper Basin 300. He once worked as a handler for Charlie Boulding.

Isaac Underwood, age 38, is a local Kuskokwim musher from Aniak, AK. He has been mushing for over 20 years with his family’s team, the Underwood Kennel which has 35 dogs. He will be running his 7th K300 this year. In the past he has competed in the Aniak 150, the Bogus Creek 150, the Akiak Dash, and other local races. Isaac is the 2014 Walter Williams Memorial Race champion.

Travis Beals, age 27, comes to the K300 for his first run from Seward, AK. He has 50 dogs in his Turning Heads Kennel. Last year he placed 9th in the Iditarod which he has run four times. In 2015 he was named the Most Improved Musher. Travis was also runner up in the Tustumena 200 in 2018. Travis is also a 2018 Mount Marathon race finisher.

Matt Scott, age 39, is a local Bethel musher. He has been racing for the past 6 years, running in many local events. Matt is the 2018 Holiday Classic champion and he also placed second in the 100 mile challenge. He is a Bogus Creek 150 veteran, placing third in the 2016, sixth in the 2017, and fourth in the 2018. Matt races for Double Haul Huskies, a kennel with 22 dogs. He is married to Emily and are expecting a baby in March.

Will Rhodes, age 40, makes his home in Two Rivers, AK with his wife Brenda Mackey – daughter of the legendary Rick Mackey. Will races with his 40 dog kennel, Mackey’s Alaskan Distance Dogs. His races include the Solstice 50, Tripod 45/45, Chatanika 200, Solstice 100, Knik 200, Two Rivers 200, Knik 200, Copper Basin 300, Two Rivers 200, Willow 300, and the Two Rivers Valley Funale. Will and Brenda have a daughter, Isabel.

John George, age 62, is a local Kuskokwim musher from Akiachak, AK. John races with his family’s team, the Tagalong Kennels, and has been racing for over 25 years. He is the 2018 Season Opener champion. John is a past champion of the Akiak Dash, winning in 2014. He is also a 2002 Bogus Creek 150 champion. This year will be his first run in the K300. His sponsors include his family and the folks of Akiachak.

Ramey Smyth, age 45, is from Willow, AK. He is a past champion of the K300, winning in 1995. He races with the Smyth Racing Team from his Homestretch Kennel, which has 62 dogs. This will be his 11th time running the Kusko 300. Ramey has run the Iditarod 26 times and was in the top 10 ten times. His top Iditarod finish was 2nd in 2011. He is also a two time Jr. Iditarod champion.

Good luck to all the mushers! Have a great race!