With defending champion Rohn Buser of Big Lake leading the way, the young guns set the early pace in the Kusko 300 sled dog race Friday.
Buser, 23, was the first musher in and out of the Tuluksak checkpoint, 52 miles into the 300-mile race, late Friday.
He departed at 10:59 p.m., followed by Josh Cadzow, 25, of Fort Yukon, and Mike Williams Jr., 27, of Akiak. Cadzow left at 11:12 p.m. and Williams at 11:13.
Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway, 25, was the fourth to hit the trail for the 22-mile run to Bogus Creek.
The race began Friday evening in Bethel in sub-zero temperatures. It is expected to end sometime Sunday in Bethel, where a record purse of $110,000 will be awarded.
Mushers must take a six-hour layover at which the start differential will be made up -- the race's 21 mushers started two at a time in two-minute intervals Friday evening. Buser was an early starter and will have to spend an extra 20 minutes when he does his six-hour layover.
Anchorage Daily News