Mackey mushes to Top of the World 350 win

sports@adn.comDecember 30, 2012 

Lance Mackey captured victory Sunday in the inaugural Top of the World 350, a rugged sled-dog race from Tok to Eagle and back.

Mackey, a four-time Iditarod and Yukon Quest champion from Two Rivers, finished in 1 day, 1 hour and 47 seconds. It was minus-11 when he reached the finish line.

Second-place Gerry Willomitzer of Whitehorse, Yukon, reached Tok at 5:01 p.m., 44 minutes behind Mackey and eight minutes ahead of third-place Jake Berkowitz of Big Lake. Joar Ulsom of Willow arrived at 6 p.m. in fourth place.

The race started Friday in Tok with a mass start featuring 23 mushers. The trip to Eagle was a fun run, with no clock ticking. After a potlatch and dance in New Eagle Village, mushers started racing for real Saturday afternoon when they headed back to Tok.

Mackey led the way into the race's only official checkpoint in Chicken, 108 miles from Eagle. After a mandatory four-hour layover, Mackey left Chicken just before 7 a.m. Sunday for the 75-mile run to Tok. At that point, he held a 37-minute lead over Willomitzer and a 90-minute lead over Berkowitz.

Mushers faced bitter cold and challenging, mountainous terrain. They crossed three major summits between Tok and Eagle -- 5,526-foot Mount Fairplay, 3700-foot Polly Summit and 3,480-foot American Summit.

The event, created by Tok musher Hugh Neff, honors the late Isaac Juneby, the former chief of Eagle. Juneby was struck and killed by a car last year in Anchorage, days before his 71st birthday.

A widely respected elder, Juneby was one of the last remaining speakers of the endangered Han Gwich'in Athabascan language and a longtime Yukon Quest checker. Sled dogs were an essential and beloved part of his life.

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