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Next year's Iditarod field littered with former champions

Mike Campbell
He won't chat you up all night, but the quiet focus and intensity of Mike Williams, Jr. is never missing, and is bolstered by his good looks. Son of the famed Aniak musher of the same name, Williams, 27, looks like to be on the ascent, coming in second only by a second in the Kuskokwim 300 and rocketing up from 26th to 13th in his first two Iditarods. Keep your eye on this one!
Stephen Nowers photo
A Norwegian charmer with a master's degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, 32-year-old Sigrid Ekran is turning heads in her third Iditarod –- and not just because of those oh-so-charming pigtails. No surprise, she was the 2007 Rookie of the Year. Petite, she seems to bounce on the snow when she's off her sled, walking. Great smile!
Loren Holmes photo
A four-time Iditarod champion, Jeff, 55, strikes us as a bit of a perfectionist. But he somehow also manages to pull off a preppy look while competing in some of the toughest races around. We're convinced it's only a matter of time before the J. Peterman Catalog comes calling.
Loren Holmes photo
Here's the second part of Alaska's Iditarod double trouble, Iditarod hottie twins. Kristy Barrington already has two Iditarods under her belt. The 28-year-old is joined on the trail this year by her twin sister, Anna, and the two have reportedly been working together at times along the way from Willow to Nome.
Maia Nolan photo
How accomplished do you like your man? After becoming the first Inupiat winner of the Iditarod last year, the face of John Baker' (on right) has been everywhere from Ketchikan to Barrow, endorsing trucks, encouraging good deeds and everything in between. He's 49 now, but despite the wear and tear of 16 Iditarods, he looks 10 years younger. He looks great on his blue sled and always has a smile and a wave. Who doesn't love his "I dream, I try, I win" motto? We'll take a few of those.
Stephen Nowers photo
Double trouble! Tall, blonde, athletic and tough, Anna and Kristy Berington are the first twins to ever run Iditarod together. Anna is a rookie this year.
Loren Holmes photo
A dog handler we'd all love to have helping out, this is 29-year-old Matt Failor's first Iditarod. Failor has a bachelor's degree of fine arts in photography and this man knows what looks good. Plus, he'll be handy in a pinch. He and his three brothers are all Eagle Scouts. Watch out, there could be romance on the trail. Listed as one of his favorite athletes on his Facebook page is Norwegian Iditarod musher Sigrid Ekran. Right now, she's more than 100 miles ahead of Matt on the trail. His other favorite athlete is boarding superstar Shaun White. We're pretty sure Matt has no shot there.
Loren Holmes photo
Zoya DeNure, 34, once lived the fashion model's life and was more familiar with the runways of Milan than the runners of a sled. She rejected it all for a life full of mountains, family and dozens of dogs in Paxson. In 2011, she gave one, whom she thought was near death, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Sorry guys, she's particular -- and married. So sad Zoya won't make it to Nome for the post-race festivities; she scratched on Saturday for the third time in four races.
Loren Holmes photo
Polite and a little quieter than the boisterous bad boys of the Iditarod pack, Rohn Buser's dimples alone make him a must among the Iditarod hotties, even at the tender age of 22. His surprise victory in January’s Kuskokwim 300 mid-distance race marked him for greatness. We love the bandannas, Rohn!
Loren Holmes photo
Can anyone believe this woman is 58? Didn't think so. In addition to her ageless beauty and incredible energy, how about few accomplishments? Try 27 times across the Nome finish line, with two runner-up finishes and a dozen top-10s. She beat cancer, competes in triathlons, plays softball. She's twice won the Iditarod's most-inspirational award. Exhausted yet?
Loren Holmes photo
Hottie alert! If you like classic good looks and great genes, Dallas is your man. His grandfather’s an Iditarod original and his father’s a champion, too. Think 25-year-old Dallas may be physically fit? He was a state wrestling champion who advanced to the Olympic Training Center. Think he’s a businessman? He owns the WIldRide Sled Dog Rodeo in Anchorage. Think he’s determined? Has gone from 51st in his first Iditarod to fourth last year. Think he's available? Sorry -- he’s married to Jen and raising 1-year-old Annie.
Loren Holmes photo
Accomplishment is sexy and Aliy Zirkle has been the woman to beat in Iditarod 2012. Zirkle's big sparkling eyes and big welcoming smile don’t hurt a bit, either.
Talented 24-year-old Pete Kaiser from Bethel is a rising star in the world of mushing -- third at the Kuskokwim 300 to eighth last year in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Sometimes a little shy, but what piercing eyes, warm smile and sexy goatee!
Ryne Olson, 23, found her way from Texas to Colorado to Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Two Rivers, where she works for Aliy Zirkle, the former Yukon Quest champion and current Iditarod frontrunner. All that time in the dog kennel hasn't at all hurt Ryne's fresh-cheek beauty, either.

Four racers with a total of 14 Iditarod championships were among the 54 mushers who signed up for the 2013 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday.

Defending champion Dallas Seavey will be back, as will his father, Mitch, the 2004 victor of the Iditarod. They’ll be joined by a trio of four-time champions and the fastest racer to make the 1,000-mile journey from Willow to Nome across Alaska's hinterland:

• Lance Mackey, the only musher to win the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod back to back, returns for what amounts to a comeback effort. After winning four straight Iditarods ending in 2010, Mackey finished a disappointing 22nd in March.

• John Baker of Kotzebue, -- the 2011 champion and the race record-holder with his blistering finish of eight days, 18 hours, 46 minutes -- will try to improve on his ninth-place finish in March 2013.

• Jeff King, the 55–year-old, four-time champion, came out of retirement this year only to see some of his dogs develop a serious stomach problem 12 miles outside of Unalakleet, lay down, and refuse to budge. It was the first scratch of King’s long and storied career. “They really hit a wall,” King said at the time. “And there’s no place to fix it out here."

• Martin Buser of Big Lake, the final four-time champion in the 2013 field, last won in 2002 and may have trouble staying ahead of his son, Rohn, come March. Martin has completed 26 consecutive races, the longest current streak. He’s also won the Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award for superior dog care four times.

The winningest musher in Iditarod history, Rick Swenson, did not sign up Saturday, but mushers still have months to do so. Swenson is coming off one of his most disappointing races, a 30th-place finish.

In addition to the returning champions, several prominent runners-up put down a $3,000 entry fee to try and climb that final step.

Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers, who fought a pitched battle with Dallas Seavey in the home stretch of this year’s race, is back. (Husband Allen Moore, another Iditarod entrant, suffered an even tougher defeat this year, finishing second to Hugh Neff by 26 seconds in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest.)

2011 runner-up Ramey Smyth of Big Lake -- who was just 64 minutes behind Baker’s record time in 2011 -- is back, too. Other former second-place finishers in the field include Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof  as well as DeeDee Jonrowe and Linwood Fiedler of Willow.

Besides offering racers their first chance the sign up for the 2013 race, Saturday was a picnic to thank volunteers in this year’s race. Both King and Cim Smyth won a drawing to win back their $3,000 entry fees.

Check out the full list of Iditarod entrants.

Contact Mike Campbell at mcampbell(at)alaskadispatch.com