LINCOLN — This year’s lone woman, Laurie Warren, pulled into Lincoln at 8:54 p.m. Monday night as the champion of the Montana Race to the Sky 300-mile sled dog race.
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Bruggeman of Great Falls, believed to be the youngest musher to finish the long course in a Race to the Sky, was 82 minutes behind, coming in at 10:16 p.m., 10 seconds before his father, Brett Bruggeman. The other three teams that started the race withdrew along the way.
Warren, 53, has trained pack mules for more than 25 years at her ranch near Council in the high desert of West Central Idaho. Her victory made it five in a row for women mushers after Alaska's Alea Robinson in 2013, Jenny Greger of Bozeman in 2014 and Iditarod veteran Jessie Royer the past two years. None of the three competed in Race to the Sky this year.
It was the first 300-miler for Warren, who competed in the Adult 100 the past three years.
She said the hardest part of the race for her team came Monday evening when they passed the Whitetail Ranch east of Ovando for the third time.
“This time we went by and the dogs thought we were going to rest. They were really sad when we went past the checkpoint,” Warren said as she unharnessed her team Monday night.
This year's course was rerouted due to avalanche danger between Seeley Lake and the traditional turnaround at Owl Creek, near Holland Lake. Teams traveled the almost 50 miles between Whitetail and Seeley Lake four times.
“This takes a race-hardened team and driver ... back and forth on the same trail over and over. … It kinda messes with your head if you let it,” Race to the Sky veteran Laura Daugereau wrote on the race’s Facebook page Monday.
Warren, 53, pulled out of the last checkpoint Monday at 9:27 a.m., with 70 backcountry miles ahead of her to the finish line in Lincoln.
The Bruggemans pulled out within 10 seconds of each other an hour after Warren left, following a mandatory six-hour layover in Seeley Lake. Warren never faltered, adding to her hour lead on the final stretch.
Rick Larson of Sand Coulee won the Adult 100 from Lincoln to Seeley Lake early Sunday.
“From what Rick told me of the trail just coming off the 100 mile race. It is HARD! Like concrete hard. This takes a lot of team management,” Daugereau wrote. “Extra care to keep your team hydrated and protect feet and wrists … and because of the booties to protect feet, risk shoulder soreness from slipping on the Ice.”
Mark Stamm of Riverside, Washington, seeking to become just the second three-time winner, withdrew from the race after reaching Seeley Lake in the early-morning hours Monday. Neal Bowlen of Park City, Utah, also withdrew at Seeley Lake. That cut in half the original starting field of six after Clayton Perry of Power was injured on Saturday night and hospitalized with a concussion.
Larson finished the Adult 100 at 7:16 a.m. Sunday, followed by Joe Carson of Wasilla, Alaska, at 7:40 a.m.
In third place was Roy Etnire of Seeley Lake at 8 a.m. Fourth went to Dave Bush of Bend, Oregon, at 9:10 a.m. Fifth place went to Steve Riggs of Olney at 9:15 a.m. and sixth was Steve Madsen of Cougar, Washington, at 9:18 a.m. Bino Fowler from Bend, Oregon, came in at 1:30 p.m. in seventh place followed by Adam Buch of Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, at 2:32 p.m., earning him the Red Lantern Award as the last-place team.
Notes: Royer, who lives and works in Darby and Fairbanks, Alaska, raced in the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest for the first time. The leaders were approaching the finish line in Fairbanks at noon Tuesday. Royer was in eighth place, roughly 180 miles from the end. She's entered in her 15th Iditarod in Alaska, starting March 4. ... Meg Conklin of Boise, along with the Herbst family, received the Sportsmanship Award. Conklin, a 13-year-old junior musher, helped get Bozeman’s Maeva Waterman and her team into the next checkpoint after Waterman took a wrong turn early in the race. Kali Herbst’s family helped bring in Perry’s team after he was injured. ...The Best Cared for Team Award was presented by Dr. Kathy Topham to Carson for excellence and professionalism taking care of his team. ... An awards ceremony for the 300-mile race was set for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Helena at St. Paul's United Methodist Church.