K300 virtual awards ceremony wraps up 2021 event

by Delta Discovery Staff

Fr. Alexander Larson of Napaskiak is this year’s K300 Sportsmanship and Rookie of the Year Award winner. photo by Greg Lincoln

The Kuskokwim 300 held a live virtual awards ceremony online with pre-recorded musher post-race comments and thank-yous, plus a special sportsmanship award presentation. The live awards ceremony took place on February 15th with the K300 Race Committee hosting the event.

Emcee for the ceremony was Andy Angstman. Shortly before the broadcast began, the final Kuskokwim 300 musher Reese Madden of Nome finished his race, which was announced during the live ceremony.

The first speaker was K300 Race Manager Paul Basile. He thanked the race sponsors and talked about their contributions and how they helped make the race possible. He thanked the musher housing sponsors, start/finish line support, the Tuluksak checkpoint volunteers, trailmarkers, and the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation COVID response team for their help and guidance in making the race safe during this pandemic, his family, the K300 Board, Alaska Pyrotechnics for the fireworks show, KYUK for the broadcasts and the pre-recorded musher speeches, and all the race fans.

Race founder and K300 Board Chairman Myron Angstman recognized Basile for a job well done.

“Paul has taken over, he’s had two years now as our race manager and he’s done a stellar job. There is just no question that we are in the best hands we’ve ever been,” he said. “We are in very good hands as long as we can keep Paul in charge of our race. I want to assure everyone of that.”

The coveted Eddie Hoffman Alaska Airlines Humanitarian Award was presented by trail veterinarians Drs. Kathy Engler and Laurie Mullins to Bethel born and raised musher Jessica Klejka.

“We are here to give the Humanitarian Award this year for the musher that we felt managed their dogs and took care of their dogs the best on the trail. It was one of those years that it was a really hard decision. There was a lot of really great dog care that happened and as we were talking about which musher deserved the veterinary award for taking care of their dogs – we actually had two or three candidates that we talked through – it was very close,” said Dr. Engler.

“As Kathy said, so many of the mushers do excellent dog care, we felt one musher just really was exemplary,” said Dr. Mullins. “Dr. Jessica Klejka is who we would like to give the Humanitarian Award to. Congratulations.”

For her prize she was awarded a gold pan and two tickets anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.

Josh Cadzow of Fort Yukon, Robert Redington of Knik, and Lewis Pavila of Kwethluk were also given special recognition for coming to Bethel to participate in the race.

Each musher beginning with Reese Madden of Nome who was awarded the Red Lantern for his 13th place finish were announced along with their prize awards. Mushers thanked their sponsors, handlers, families, and their dogs and told their tales from the trail.

“I really appreciated all the positive energy out there on the trail from other mushers as I was going around even when I was coming into Bethel to the halfway point,” said Bethel musher Nate DeHaan. “I passed by most of the top 10 I think as they were on their way out and even got a couple of high 5s from mushers as we went by each other. It was really fun to have folks say ‘hi’ and ‘good job’ and ‘good luck’ as we went by. It was an amazing experience to do my first K300, happy to make it around and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

The Joe Demantle Jr. and Robert Ivan Sportsmanship Award was presented to Fr. Alexander Larson of Napaskiak who finished in 4th place. The sportsmanship award was renamed to remember and honor Demantle and Ivan who were local Kuskokwim mushers who have passed on.

“Congratulations Fr. Larson, that is a very special award this year especially with the significance of the people that we lost that were integral to mushing in southwest Alaska,” said Andy Angstman.

Fr. Larson also was awarded the Rookie of the Year award.

First place finisher Richie Diehl was commended for calling in to Angstman to alert the race organizers about a section of poorly-marked trail so they could get out there to fix it before other mushers take the wrong trail.

“That is true sportsmanship,” said Angstman who said that there’s stories in the old days of front runners pulling markers so that the people behind them couldn’t find the trail. “My hats off to Richie for that kind effort to get that trail marked.”

“Thank you everyone who pulled this off this year, the race was a success – a massive success,” concluded Andy. “To all the people who are continuing mushing right now – it’s been a bright spot in a kind of a bleak winter for a lot people. Thank you all very much.”