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Iditarod

Iditarod frontrunners rush through Nulato as race heats up

Iditarod musher Wade Marrs passes through the Nulato checkpoint without stopping during the 2017 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 11, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

The Iditarod's top three teams treated the village of Nulato like a speed bump Saturday, slowing down only long enough to check in and check out.

Mitch Seavey made the first drive-by at 3:45 p.m. Saturday. He stayed for one minute.

Wade Marrs got there at 8:16 p.m. and stayed for one minute.

Dallas Seavey arrived at 8:46 p.m. and stayed for one minute.

Clearly, the race is on.

Mitch Seavey, a 57-year-old two-time champ from Sterling, is the trail leader, although unlike his two pursuers he needs to take his eight-hour layover before the race leaves the Yukon River.

He's taking that break in Kaltag, 47 miles downriver from Nulato and 346 miles from the finish line in Nome. He reached Kaltag at 7:40 p.m. Saturday, which means he should return to the trail at 3:40 a.m. Sunday with a well-rested team.

Nicolas Petit, of Girdwood, was the fourth musher to reach Nulato, arriving at 10:06 p.m. He lingered for six minutes, long enough to snack his dogs.

 
Iditarod musher Nicolas Petit snacks his dog team at the Nulato checkpoint before moving on down the trail Saturday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Petit is driving a team of 15 dogs. The three teams ahead of him all have 13 dogs remaining from the teams of 16 they started the race with, but only Marrs is driving all of his.

Both Seaveys are ferrying dogs on their sleds to give some of their animals extra rest. Mitch left Nulato with 11 dogs in harness and two in his sled; Dallas left with 10 in harness and three in his sled.

Mitch Seavey set the tone in Nulato with his quick afternoon appearance. He picked up nothing from his drop bags. He picked up no straw. He picked up no fuel. He never even left his sled runners.

A crowd gathered around the river cheered when Seavey came in and called "good luck" as he quickly headed out. He commented briefly that it was "a nice trail."

A similar scene happened a few hours later when Marrs, of Willow, pulled up to a spot on the snowy Yukon River where race officials, volunteers and reporters gathered.

Marrs posed for a quick photograph before saying, "OK, I've got to go."

He thanked everyone and took off at 8:17 p.m. in 14 degree temperatures.

Four-time champion Dallas Seavey, of Willow, arrived 30 minutes later, and like Marrs and his dad, he didn't pause to pick up anything.

"I don't need nothing. I just need to get out of here," Seavey said before asking where exactly his team should go on the dark, wide river trail.

He thanked the crowd gathered around him and left a minute after he arrived. "Catch your daddy!" someone yelled from the river.

Dallas Seavey’s looks for the outgoing trail from the Nulato checkpoint. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

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