Mitch Seavey wins Iditarod 45 in record time
Mitch Seavey, 57, of Sterling, Alaska won the 2017 Iditarod on Tuesday afternoon in a record-breaking time of eight days, three hours, 40 minutes and 13 seconds on the trail, shattering his son Dallas’ record of eight days, 11 hours and 20 minutes, set last year.
Under bright blue skies, a stiff cold breeze send the flags and Iditarod banners fluttering as crowds of people thronged Front Street to greet the 2017 Iditarod champion.
Seavey notched his third victory and did so with a fast dog team that did not loose speed as they traveled along the nearly 1,000-mile route from Fairbanks to Nome via Huslia and Koyukuk.
“They love speed,” Seavey said at the finish line. “They get frustrated when we go too slow, so I let them roll. It was scary because I never let them go that fast that far, ever. But that’s what they wanted to do, so maybe that’s a new chapter.”
Seavey spoke about the speed of his team and the trust the dogs have in him to stop when they needed to stop and take a rest. In recent years, trends have developed in the opposite direction, where mushers would travel long distances at the cost of speed in their teams. With Seavey’s record-shattering victory, knowledgeable commentators such as Seavey’s son Danny asked, “How fast can future Iditarods be won?”
At the finish line in Nome, the afternoon crowd - a noticable difference to the late night crowd during previous years’ finishes - cheered on the Iditarod champ.
For the past seven years, the Seavey clan has dominated the race, claiming both victory and several times the runner-up spot. In 2012, Mitch’s son Dallas began winning the race. In 2013, Mitch Seavey claimed the title. From 2014 to 2016 Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod back-to-back with his father coming in second place in 2015 and 2016.
This year, the father proved to have the stronger and faster dog team.
Shortly after setting the hook, hugging wife Janine and after being officially checked in, Seavey went to his dogs, offered the 11 dogs on the gangline a meat snack and sat down with his leaders to have a moment amidst the media frenzy around him.
He spoke to reporters about his amazing dogs. “They only know one thing and that’s 10 miles an hour. They gave me all they could,” Seavey said.
Besides very cold temperatures of minus 50°F in the early segments of the race — fifty below, Seavey said, is something he really cannot get used to — there were no dramatic weather or trail issues. “It was an incredible trail and an incredible experience that I will never forget,” he said. “Besides these dogs, they are amazing performers, there was amazing variety, the scenery, the trail or most of it was great. I wish I could remember and record every detail,” he said.
Asked at what point he felt that he had victory in sight, Seavey explained that sleep deprivation caused him to not really realize how well his dog team was traveling in relation to others. He said not until his son Dallas congratulated him on his beautiful dog team and letting him know that he had a lead of five hours over the other teams did Seavey feel confident that he once again could win this. That realization happened in Koyuk, he said.