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2014 Iditarod awards banquet honors mushers for speed, good sportsmanship on trail

Laurel Andrews
Iditarod mushers Martin Buser and Michael Williams Jr at Puntilla Lake on March 3, 2014. Williams Jr. was voted best sportsman in this year's race by his fellow mushers, while Martin Buser was selected as offering the best dog care among the top-20 finishers. Loren Holmes photo

The final mushers of the 2014 Iditarod crossed under the burled arch in Nome Saturday evening, officially ending this year’s tumultuous race. The next night, the annual awards banquet honored mushers for a variety of accomplishments, from rookie of the year to most inspirational musher.

Top-finishing musher Dallas Seavey took home the winning purse of $50,400, along with a 2014 Dodge Ram pickup truck donated by Anchorage Chrysler-Dodge. Seavey, the youngest Iditarod champion in 2012 at age 25, reaffirmed he had no idea he had won when he crossed the finish line in the early morning of March 11. He thought he was battling his father, 2013 Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey, for third place. But Seavey had passed race leaders Jeff King, who scratched a few miles outside the final checkpoint of Safety, and Aliy Zirkle, who was waiting out the rough weather in that same checkpoint.

"I think I am the first person to win the Iditarod who didn't know he'd won,” race officials quoted Dallas as saying. 

Seavey’s lead dog, Beatle, received accolades as the most outstanding lead dog of the year. Beatle was awarded the City of Nome Lolly Medley Golden Harness Award and presented with a gold-colored harness on stage Sunday. Dallas’ younger brother, Conway Seavey, was also congratulated onstage as the winner of this year's Junior Iditarod, run before the big race.

Marcelle Fressineau earned the Red Lantern award as the last musher to cross the finish line in 49th place at 7:42 p.m. Saturday evening. She took home a trophy made from a Red Lantern.

Martin Buser won the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award, given to a top-20 musher who demonstrated outstanding dog care. Buser, who finished sixth, told the crowd that his 31st Iditarod “was a tough race.” 

Sonny Lindner was the first musher to reach the McGrath checkpoint, earning him the PenAir Spirit of Alaska Award. He received a Spirit Mask created by Bristol Bay artist Orville Lind and a $500 credit on PenAir.

First to the halfway point, musher Aaron Burmeister won the GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award, taking home $3,000 in gold nuggets and a trophy. Burmeister, who doggedly persisted despite a leg injury, was also chosen the most inspirational musher by his fellow racers. He took home a commemorative gold coin valued at $3,900 on a gold chain.

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, who scratched within hours of the finish line, was first to reach the Yukon, earning a five-course meal on the trail prepared by the Millennium Alaskan Hotel and $3,500 in cash, presented on a gold pan along with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

Aliy Zirkle took home both the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First Award and the Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award, for being the first musher to reach Galena and Unalakleet, respectively. She took home $1,000, 25 pounds of Bristol Bay salmon, a commemorative jacket for the Fish First award. The Gold Coast award earned her a trophy and $2,500 worth of gold nuggets.

Zirkle, who earned $47,600 as the second-place finisher, told the crowd that she had no regrets about the race. She recounted her story about leaving White Mountain for Nome and stopping in Safety during the storm that caused King to scratch.

Nathan Schroeder won the Jerry Austin Rookie of the Year Award, presented to the highest-finishing rookie. Schroeder finished 17th, reaching Front Street just minutes before fellow rookie Abbie West. Schroeder took home $1,500 and a trophy.

Jessie Royer and Ray Redington Jr. tied for the the Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time Safety to Nome Award. Both mushers earned $500 with their runs of two hours, 24 minutes from the final checkpoint to the finish line. Royer noted that the tougher the race, the better she seems to fare. "I hate to see how tough the race is going to have to be for me to finish in the top five," race officials quote her as saying.

Richie Diehl earned the most-improved musher award. He finished 14th this year, a big jump from 36th a year ago. He was presented with an engraved trophy and $2,000.

Michael Williams Jr. was voted best sportsman by his fellow mushers. He took home $1,049 and a plaque.

Newton Marshall was chosen by checkers along the coast as the winner of the Herbie Nayokpuk Award, given to the musher whose attitude on the trail mimics that of the sunny Nayokpuk, known as “The Shishmaref Cannonball.”  Marshall earned a scrimshawed walrus ivory trophy and $1,049 presented as “pocket change” inside of a Northern Air Cargo jacket.

The Interior community of Galena won the Golden Clipboard Award, presented every year since 2000 to a “special checkpoint,” voted on by the mushers.

Before taking the stage in their order of finish, each musher was randomly given a set of keys -- one of which started a four-wheeler for the race’s annual giveaway. When Robert Sorlie came on stage as the 21st finisher, his keys started the vehicle.

The top 30 finishers all receive a cash award in decreasing amounts by finish, totaling $650,100, race spokesperson Julie Busch said. Other finishers each receive $1,049, symbolic of the number of miles of the original race.

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