by Greg Lincoln
The Kuskokwim 300 crown has returned to Bethel with Pete Kaiser’s sixth win in a field of sixteen mushers. Kaiser raced up to Aniak and back down the Kuskokwim finishing with a time of 37 hours, 29 mins. Two former champions were hot on his heels. Coming in second was the 2019 K300 champion Matt Failor of Willow. In third is the 2021 champion Richie Diehl of Aniak.
Kaiser crossed the finish line at 7:59am on Sunday morning, January 30th, 2022 with 11 dogs in harness. In lead for the team were Lucy and Sky.
The race started at 6:30pm on the river in front of Bethel. It was a traditional K300 start with two teams mushing out of the starting chute in 2 minute intervals. Fans were bundled up in warm furs and malachi’s, parkas and mitts and face coverings in the -4˚F temps and 22 mph wind as they lined the chute to cheer for the mushers and the dogs in their coats and booties as they departed.
K300 race emcees Myron and Andy Angstman provided commentaries and counted down the starting clock for the mushers as they began their journeys up the river.
After the starting chute, mushers traveled upriver to Straight Slough staying close to the left bank and continuing up until they reached the Gweek River. The following section of trail is a bit different this year, said the K300. Teams traveled on the Gweek for approximately 10-11 more miles then moved to an overland trail behind the villages of Akiachak and Akiak. Below Tuluksak the trail returned to the Kuskokwim and then passes through the traditional Tuluksak Checkpoint.
From there the K300 followed its traditional route through Bogus Creek then on to Kalskag. From Kalskag mushers proceeded on the river to Aniak with the Whitefish Lake loop after the checkpoint, to begin their way back downriver. After the loop they rejoined the river trail above Kalskag then followed the same route downriver to Bethel from there.
The skies above the river were lit up with the 2022 Lead Dog Light Show presented by the First National Bank Alaska right after the last mushers departed.
Later on at the Tuluksak checkpoint Jason Pavila of Kwethluk was the first musher to pass through arriving at 10:36pm and departing at 10:39pm. He was followed by Fr. Alexander Larson, in at 10:43pm, out at 10:44pm.
Next was Richie Diehl at 11:00pm, Matt Failor at 11:01pm and Sam Brewer at 11:06pm, none of whom stopped at the checkpoint. Fans were glued to their radios and race trackers throughout the cold night.
Racers spent the mandatory 4 hour rest in Tuluksak on the inbound before the final push to Bethel and the finish line.
Unfortunately, Fr. Alexander Larson of Napaskiak was penalized for skipping the Kalskag checkpoint on the way back to Bethel. The K300 race committee announced that Father Larson left the marked trail at Kalskag and bypassed the checkpoint. All mushers are required to check-in at every checkpoint, even if they do not plan to rest.
“Our three Race Marshals met on the trail, and together, made the difficult decision to issue a time penalty of 20 minutes, which will be added to Fr. Larson’s rest time at Tuluksak,” said the K300 Race Committee. “The checkpoint crew was expecting Larson on the heels of Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl at about 6:40 last night, and became concerned when he didn’t arrive. Access to the GPS tracker is somewhat limited at the site but after some time our crew checked it and saw that Larson had advanced well downriver. Volunteers went out on snowmachine to notify him of his error. He was given the choice to turn around and go back to the checkpoint to check-in or advance down the trail and likely receive a penalty. He continued on. Larson reported that he didn’t think he was required to go to the checkpoint because he had already fulfilled his rest requirement, but acknowledged his mistake and accepted the penalty. The 20 minute penalty will be added to his 4 hour mandatory rest in Tuluksak. He arrived at the checkpoint at 1:10 AM and will leave at 5:30 AM.”
The race wrapped up early Monday morning with the finish of Red Lantern Award winner John Snyder of Akiachak. He crossed the finish line at 1:18am. Mushing fans swooned with a sigh of relief and cheered for all the dogs and mushers who made it home safely.
2021 K300 champion Richie Diehl still holds the fastest finish time that he set in 2021 – 36 hours and 8 minutes. Congratulations on your 2022 race finishes!
2022 Kuskokwim 300 Race Results
January 28 – 31, 2022
1 Peter Kaiser 37:29:00
2 Matthew Failor 37:45:00
3 Richie Diehl 37:49:00
4 Travis Beals 38:16:00
5 Joar Leifseth Ulsom 38:19:00
6 Cim Smyth 38:31:00
7 Aaron Burmeister 39:30:00
8 Jason Pavila 39:56:00
9 Gabe Dunham 39:58:00
10 Alexander Larson 40:06:00
11 Sam Brewer 40:09:00
12 Eddie Jr Burke 40:52:00
13 Lev Shvarts 43:06:00
14 Isaac Underwood 45:46:00
15 Nate DeHaan 47:46:00
16 John Snyder 54:43:00