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Bookended by rookies, the Iditarod’s Elim 11 reaches Nome to mark the end of the race

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: March 22
  • Published March 22

Iditarod rookie Kaci Murringer of Willow crests a hill on Cordova Street during the March 7 ceremonial start in Anchorage. She reached Nome at 12:29 p.m. Sunday to claim the Red Lantern award. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

With a rookie leading the way and another bringing up the rear, the Elim 11 reached Nome on Sunday to mark the end of the 48th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Willow musher Grayson Bruton, 24, was the winner of the 123-mile race-within-the-race -- the fastest of the 11 teams that left Elim together early Saturday morning after being holed up at the checkpoint anywhere from 30 to 60 hours by overflow that made travel impossible.

Willow musher Kaci Murringer, who turned 30 during the race, was the last to finish, giving her the Red Lantern award as the Iditarod’s last-place finisher.

Six members of the Elim 11 were rookies.

Bruton finished in 24th place Sunday at 7:20 a.m. Thirty minutes behind him, four-time champion Martin Buser of Big Lake claimed 25th place to maintain his perfect Iditarod record -- 37 starts with 37 finishes.

Buser, 61, led a parade of six teams that reached Front Street nearly one right after the other in a 58-minute span. He was followed Riley Dyche, Magnus Kaltenborn, Deke Naaktgeboren, Dennis Kananowicz and Fabio Berlusconi.

About an hour later, Monica Zappa and Laura Neese finished three minutes apart. Damon Ramaker arrived at 10:28 a.m., and Murringer put an end to the 48th annual Iditarod at 12:29 p.m.

Murringer was the 34th finisher of a race that started March 8 in Willow. She finished in 13 days, 22 hours, 29 minutes.

Thomas Waerner of Norway captured victory more than four days earlier at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday.

Despite the Elim 11′s long delay in Elim, the gap this year between the race winner and the Red Lantern winner was the fifth-smallest in history -- 4 days, 11 hours. The smallest gap came in 2018, when race winner Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Red Lantern winner Kaltenborn were separated by 3 days, 8 hours.

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