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NIKOLAI, Alaska — Longtime Montana resident Jessie Royer departed the Nikolai checkpoint in eighth place Tuesday, the third day of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race from Willow to Nome, Alaska.

Royer, who was raised outside of Ennis, arrived at the native village on the northern edge of the Alaska Range at 12:48 p.m. (MST). She arrived in ninth place, 12 minutes ahead of friend and rival Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers, Alaska.

Royer left Nikolai before Zirkle and Linwood Fiedler of Willow, Alaska, who had arrived at the checkpoint in eighth place.

"Very soft slow trail, too warm for the dogs," Royer texted from Nikolai. "They don't eat good in warm weather, plus we are fighting a flu bug in the dogs. Tough going right now."

Defending champion Mitch Seavey of Seward, Alaska, was the leader and one of eight mushers who had departed Nikolai for McGrath, 48 miles down the trail. Royer left Nikolai 2 hours and 6 minutes behind Seavey.

Royer, who last year was the first top-10 Iditarod finisher to complete the entire route with all 16 of her dogs, dropped one of her huskies at the Rainy Pass checkpoint Monday.

"Looking forward to our 24-hour layover," Royer texted. "Dogs will need it. Hope trail and dogs get better soon."

Another close friend of Royer's, Brett Bruggeman of Great Falls, was in 35th place at the Rohn checkpoint. Bruggeman, a Cleveland, Ohio, native who was raised in Idaho and owns Bruggeman Endodontics, was still running 16 dogs.


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