Salcha musher Arleigh Reynolds extended his lead over five-time champion Egil Ellis of Willow on Saturday, the second day of the three-day Fur Rendezvous Open World Championship Sled Dog Race.
Reynolds' combined time of 2:35:33 compared to Ellis' 2:39:14 puts him in a strong -- but not unassailable -- position to win his first Rondy championship.
Reynolds led Ellis by 96 seconds at the end of the first day's heat, which made him the last musher to leave the start line Saturday.
Being at the back of the pack and following Ellis out by two minutes may have helped him pace his team. He was able to maintain a stable distance from Ellis for the first half of the 24.8 mile course with reserve power for the final push.
By Cordova Hill, the two were going neck and neck. Reynolds was the first to reach 4th Avenue and sprinted to the finish line with Ellis on his heels.
At the end of the run, Reynolds had accomplished the nearly unheard-of feat of turning in identical times for each of the first two days, running just one second slower on Day 1, a testament to discipline and control of his team. His Day 2 time of 1:17:46 was 2:19 faster than the 1:20:05 posted by Ellis, who was nearly a minute slower than he was Friday.
Last year's winner, Ken Chezik of Fife Lake, Mich., remained in third position.
Several mushers improved on their Day 1 times, and their positions, including Kevin Raymond Cook of Saskatchewan, Marvin Kokrine of North Pole -- who is running the only wood sled in the race -- and Marie-Anick Elie of Northwest Territories.
Elie, the only woman in this year's race, spoke previously about the uniqueness of the Rondy Race, which runs dog teams through an urban setting.
She said the setting was unfamiliar to her dogs, which are used to running in the unpopulated tundra of her hometown of Inuvik, north of the Arctic Circle.
The dogs did seem confused at the start, with the leaders slowing to a walk around Barrow St., looking back at Elie for direction. A number of onlookers east of A St. were over the barricade rope and in the street, apparently oblivious to race officials' repeated shouted orders to clear the trail.
Away from the buildings, however, Elie's dogs started passing other teams. She came out of the crowded pack at Campbell Airstrip and the challenging "Squiggles" terrain just past that checkpoint to move into seventh place, having started the day in 10th position.
Mushers will leave in reverse order of their cumulative times starting at noon on Sunday. The start and finish are at 4th Ave. and D St.
Reach Mike Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4332.
Fur Rendezvous Open World Championships
Musher Day 1 time Day 2 time Total time
Arleigh Reynolds, Salcha 1:17:47 1:17:46 2:35:33
Egil Ellis, Willow 1:19:09 1:20:05 2:39:14
Ken Chezik, Fife Lake, Mich. 1:20:09 1:20:28 2:40:37
Kevin Raymond Cook, Preeceville, Sask. 1:22:49 1:18:24 2:41:13
Greg Sellentin, Willow 1:22:39 1:21:46 2:44:25
Marvin Kokrine, North Pole 1:24:41 1:23:41 2:48:22
Marie-Anick Elie, Inuvik, Northwest Territories 1:26:25 1:24:42 2:51:07
Greg Taylor, Fairbanks 1:25:03 1:27:27 2:52:30
Jack Berry, Homer 1:24:23 1:28:50 2:53:13
Robert Worden, Mexico, N.Y. 1:25:51 1:30:18 2:56:09
John Erhart, Tanana 1:29:43 1:26:29 2:56:12
Nathan Sterling, Willow 1:28:06 1:34:22 3:02:28
Brent Beck, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories 1:35:46 1:28:37 3:04:23
John Norris, Willow 1:39:39 1:51:55 3:13:34
By MIKE DUNHAM