NOME — Just after the Iditarod’s top rookie, 22-year-old Hanna Lyrek, cruised into Nome, veteran musher Paige Drobny followed suit.
They had been traveling together during the final leg of the race and congratulated each other in the finish chute.
“Hey, good job! Nice finish,” Paige told Lyrek.
Lyrek, a 22 year-old from Alta, Norway, who was born in Alaska, was crowned rookie of the year for completing the race as its fastest newcomer. Lyrek and Drobny finished 19th and 20th, respectively.
“We met on some wind and then Paige is nice enough to kind of take me on,” Lyrek said. “So we’ve kind of kept the same speed so it’s been really nice traveling with her.”
Drobny said Lyrek had approached her, concerned about the final stretch of coast. Lyrek’s mom, Trine, ran in the race in 2005 and had warned her about falling into the ocean, Drobny said.
“(Lyrek) wondered if we could run together and if it got bad then we could share the leading duties so our dogs didn’t get too mentally taxed and that worked out really well,” Drobny said.
Just prior to the two pulling into the finish chute, Drobny’s husband, Cody Strathe, said he figured Drobny and Lyrek were traveling together.
“Paige probably doesn’t really care what place she comes in, as long as she gets here,” he said.
Lyrek’s mom was emotional while waiting for Lyrek to come down Front Street. Trine Lyrek, who lives in Norway, knows the feeling after completing the race herself in 2005. Trine gave Lyrek a massive embrace, a kiss on the cheek, and then squeezed Lyrek’s cheeks, just after Lyrek zoomed under the burled arch.
Trine said she wasn’t surprised about Lyrek’s race accomplishments -- Lyrek may be a rookie in the Iditarod but isn’t a rookie musher, Trine said. She’s been racing since age 15.
“I knew if everything was going right, she had a good chance at it, but that doesn’t always happen,” Trine said. “So it’s amazing.”
Lyrek, who stayed among the front half of racers for much of the race, said the accomplishment hadn’t yet sunk in.
“My dream was to become rookie of the year,” she said. “And I kinda had a plan that I wanted to follow, but in a long race like this, things happen and you adjust it all the time so just finishing is the main goal.”