Toting a giant Canadian flag, Michelle Phillips crossed the Iditarod finish line in Nome after nine days, two hours, two minutes and 45 seconds on the trail.
The 13th-place finish is a personal best for the Tagish Lake Kennel musher. This year was her eighth time competing in the 1,000-mile race, which due to low snow in the Alaska Range, ran from Fairbanks to Nome this year, instead of
its usual Willow to Nome route.
Phillips’ previous best was 16th in 2012, her second year racing in the Iditarod.
Phillips was a rookie in 2010, finishing 27th, and has participated in the race every year since.
In 2012 she was awarded the Herbie Nayokpuk Award. The award is in memory of Herbie Nayokpuk, a musher from Shishmaref, Alaska. He was known as “The Shishmaref Cannonball,” ‘a nickname blending his home village of Shishmaref with his straight-ahead style in both dog mushing and life: always smiling, always happy, charging into the new day with the enthusiasm of a puppy,’ wrote Anchorage Daily News’s Craig Medred in an obituary for the late musher, who passed away in 2006.
Phillips, known by many in Yukon’s mushing community as “Yukon’s sweetheart musher,” started the race on the afternoon of March 6 and was playing with her team in the dog yard ahead of the start.
She continued to have fun on the trail with an energetic team, playing with them in the dog yard again at Nenana.
Temperatures were cold for the first part of the race and Phillips was the top female musher for most of the first half of the race. She finished with 12 dogs Wednesday.
The initial pool of dogs for her team that made the trip to Alaska were Mustang, Splash, Phantom, Caesar, Chia, Apollo, Iris, Dragon, Dojo, Tacoma, Saki, Darth, Indigo, Gaia, Wonder Woman, Viper and Kale.
Unlike the Yukon Quest, Iditarod teams may start with a maximum of 16 dogs. For the Quest, teams may start with 14 dogs.
Phillips was also fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). Her son Keegan, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2013. Those interested in donating, can at http://jdrfca.donordrive.com/index.cfm?
Phillips recently won her third Yukon Quest 300 and was third at January’s Copper Basin 300.
The Yukon’s Hans Gatt finished 15th with nine dogs.
Finish with full team
Yukon Quest rookie Jessie Royer, competing in her 15th Iditarod, ran into Nome with 16 dogs on her team.
“It’s kind of a once and a lifetime deal. It may not ever happen again,” Royer told KTVA Alaska. “The good Lord blessed me with an awesome year and an awesome team of dogs.”
She finished fifth with a time of eight days 13 hours eight minutes and 54 seconds.
This is the first year that Royer has finished with a full team of 16 dogs. Only five other mushers have accomplished the feat and none in the top 20, reported Alaska Dispatch News.
Zirkle and King persevere
A year after being run off the Iditarod trail by a snowmachiner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King both finished the Last Great Race. Zirkle was eighth, while King was 11th.
“I feel like I should tell people, ‘Yeah, I’m going back out there,’ but I wish I could say I was fine. But there will be some struggles out there,” she told The Associated Press before the race this year. “It’s hard to convince this other, this
‘Protective Aliy’ that exists, that it’s not going to happen again, cause she’s ready to kick some fanny if it does, and she’s a little sensitive.”