Lanier, Harper lead way to Junior Iditarod halfway point

Eight minutes separated Junior Iditarod pacesetters Jimmy Lanier of Chugiak and Kevin Harper of Wasilla when the 130-mile sled-dog race hit the halfway point Sunday evening.

Lanier, the son of two Iditarod finishers, recorded the fastest time on the 65-mile run from the Denali Highway to Alpine Creek Lodge.

He and his team of 10 dogs out of dad Jim Lanier's Northern Whites Kennel covered the stretch in 5 hours, 48 minutes.

Harper, who trains with Iditarod musher Ray Redington, clocked 5:56.

Because of the race's incremental start, Harper reached Alpine Creek Lodge first, pulling in with a team of nine dogs at 6 p.m. Lanier arrived second at 6:10 p.m., and by 7:01 p.m., six other mushers were there -- Dakota Schlosser (6:10 run time), Andrew Nolan (6:13), Joan Klejka (6:13), Ksenia Deits (6:43) and Marianne Mallory.

A field of 11 is in the race, which is for mushers ages 14-17.

After a 10-hour layover at Alpine Creek Lodge, mushers will race back to the start/finish line at the parking area about three miles in on the Denali Highway. Because of poor trail conditions on the race's usual route, this year's competition was moved north to the Cantwell area.

The race started Sunday at noon and will finish sometime Monday. Conway Seavey won last year's race at age 17, his final year of eligibility. Harper finished third and Lanier fourth last year.