Kaiser leads tight sled dog race in Norton Sound 450

Pete Kaiser of Bethel and John Schandelmeier of Paxson were separated by nine minutes Saturday when they led the way into the penultimate checkpoint of the Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450 sled dog race.

Kaiser, the winner of last year's Kobuk 440, arrived at the White Mountain checkpoint at 12:39 p.m. At 12:48, Schandelmeier, a two-time Yukon Quest winner, joined him.

Judy Currier was third to arrive at 1:29 p.m., followed by Michelle Phillips at 1:50 p.m., Louis Ambrose at 2:56 p.m. and Aaron Burmeister at 3:59.

Mushers must take an eight-hour layover at White Mountain before mushing the final 77 miles to the finish line in Nome.

The 450-mile race honors Iditarod veteran and long-time Norton Sound Sled Dog Club member Paul Johnson, who died of cancer in October. It started Wednesday in Unalakleet.