Iditarod musher Jessica Klejka named most inspirational by fellow competitors

A third-year Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race competitor who crossed the finish line expecting her next child was named this year’s most inspirational musher by her peers.

Wasilla competitor Jessica Klejka said after arriving in Nome early last Thursday in 19th place that she was “working on another mini me right now,” which added another challenge to her run that she managed by taking additional, longer breaks this time around.

The Iditarod’s special honors and other awards were finalized and presented to mushers at Sunday’s finishers banquet, capping off a 2024 race that brought a record sixth win for champion Dallas Seavey.

This year’s race purse amounts to $550,000. The top 20 mushers each receive a share of the purse that corresponds to their finishing place — the higher they place, the more prize money they receive. Finishers in 21st place or lower will each receive $2,000.

Here’s an overview of the special awards presented this year, followed by a breakdown of the race purse prizes.

• Hilcorp Alaska Most Inspirational Musher Award: Fellow competitors chose Jessica Klejka as this year’s honoree, an award that comes with paid entry to the 2025 Iditarod.

• Leonhard Seppala Humanitarian Award: The Iditarod’s veterinarians select a musher who demonstrates outstanding dog care while staying competitive to receive this award, presented by the Pike Dog Wellness First Initiative. Award winner Wally Robinson — who finished the race with 14 dogs in harness, the most of any competitor — received a commemorative trophy and paid entry to the 2025 Iditarod.


• Donlin Gold Sportsmanship Award: Mushers selected Matthew Failor of Willow as the best sportsman on the trail. The award comes with a plaque and $3,000.

• Most Improved Musher Award: Robinson also received this award, which comes with a commemorative trophy and $2,000. He last ran the Iditarod in 2001 as a rookie, finishing in 40th place. This year, after agreeing to step in for an injured musher 23 years after his last race to Nome, Robinson claimed 11th place.

• Northern Air Cargo Herbie Nayokpuk Memorial Award: Race staff and officials select the musher who best epitomizes Herbie “The Shishmaref Cannonball” Nayokpuk’s spirit on the trail. Failor, this year’s recipient, receives handmade crafts from the Nayokpuk family, $1,049 “in pocket change” and a jacket from Northern Air Cargo.

• Golden Clipboard Award: Mushers chose Ophir as this year’s outstanding checkpoint.

• City of Nome Lolly Medley Memorial Golden Harness Award: This award for outstanding lead dog goes to Aero, on champion Seavey’s team, who receives an embroidered gold harness. Mushers choose the recipient of this award, presented in honor of the late Lolly Medley, a harness maker from Wasilla who was also one of two women to run the second Iditarod.

• Rookie of the Year: Josi Thyr was 2024′s top-placing rookie, receiving a check for $2,000 and a trophy.

• Lynden “Committed Through the Last Mile” Red Lantern Award: Jeff Reid won $1,000 and a Red Lantern trophy as the final musher to reach Nome.

• Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Iditarod Award: For being the first musher to reach Nikolai, Mille Porsild won a pair of beaver fur mitts featuring beadwork on moose hide made by Loretta Maillelle of McGrath; a beaver fur hat made by Oline Petruska of Nikolai; and a Pendleton wool blanket from Alaska Air Transit.

• GCI Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award: Dallas Seavey won $3,000 in gold nuggets and a commemorative trophy for being the first musher to reach the checkpoint of Cripple.

• First Musher to the Yukon: As the first musher to arrive at Ruby, Nicolas Petit won a gourmet dinner prepared at the checkpoint by chefs from the Anchorage restaurants South and Spenard Roadhouse. He also wins dinner for 12 people at South, to be redeemed later.

• Bristol Bay Native Corp. Fish First Award: Travis Beals won $2,000, 25 pounds of Bristol Bay salmon and wood-burned art by BBNC shareholder and artist Apay’uq Moore for being the first to reach Kaltag.

• Ryan Air Gold Coast Award: Jessie Holmes won $1,500 in gold nuggets, a loon hand-carved by Mark Tetpon of Shaktoolik and Ryan Air merchandise for being the first to reach Unalakleet.

• Northrim Bank Achieve More Award: Seavey won $2,500 for being the first to reach White Mountain.

• Nome Kennel Club Fastest Time From Safety to Nome: Petit won $500 for being the top 20 musher with the fastest time on the final stretch of trail, at 2 hours, 18 minutes.

• Howard Farley Sr. Memorial Award: Lara Kittelson was selected to win $500. Finishers outside the top 20 had their names entered for a chance to win this award honoring perseverance on the trail and presented by the Nome Kennel Club.

Each finishing musher’s share of the total prize purse, according to Iditarod officials: 1st place: Dallas Seavey, $55,900; 2nd: Matt Hall, $47,250; 3rd: Jessie Holmes, $43,400; 4th: Jeff Deeter, $39,500; 5th: Paige Drobny, $36,250; 6th: Travis Beals, $31,300; 7th: Mille Porsild, $29,100; 8th: Amanda Otto, $27,450; 9th: Peter Kaiser, $25,800; 10th: Jessie Royer, $24,000; 11th: Wally Robinson, $22,500; 12th: Nicolas Petit, $21,300; 13th: Matthew Failor, $20,000; 14th: Ryan Redington, $18,800; 15th: Josi Thyr, $17,600; 16th: Jason Mackey, $16,450; 17th: Bailey Vitello, $15,350; 18th: Gabe Dunham, $14,300; 19th: Jessica Klejka, $13,350; 20th: Mats Pettersson, $12,400; and 21st through 29th: Anna Berington, Will Rhodes, Lara Kittelson, Anna Hennessy, Benjamin Good, Lauro Eklund, Joshua Robbins, Severin Cathry and Jeff Reid, $2,000 each.