Zirkle grabs lead in Kaltag, but it's anyone's race
UPDATE (11 a.m., Sunday):
Mitch Seavey earned $2,500 in gold nuggets for being the first musher to reach Unalakleet, arriving in the Bering Sea village at 10:13 a.m. this morning. Seavey made the run in 12 hours, 39 minutes, passing Jake Berkowitz, Aliy Zirkle and Martin Buser along the way. Zirkle was the first musher out of Kaltag Saturday night, leaving more than two hours ahead of Seavey.
Saturday night update:
Two Rivers musher Aliy Zirkle made a bold move Saturday evening, leaving Kaltag at 6:11 p.m., nearly two hours before her closest pursuer.
Zirkle was followed onto the 80-mile Kaltag Portage to the Bering Sea coast village of Unalakleet by Nome's Aaron Burmeister at 8:04 p.m. A trio of contenders left a half-hour after Burmeister, including previous race leader Martin Buser at 8:33 p.m., Mitch Seavey at 8:34 p.m. and Jake Berkowitz at 8:35 p.m.
Zirkle rested just 19 minutes in Kaltag before returning to the trail. Buser, who has led much of the race since leaving Willow on March 3, spent a little over six hours resting in Kaltag.
Defending champion Dallas Seavey announced his return to the lead pack when he breezed through Kaltag in sixth place, stopping just 11 minutes before heading for Unalakleet in sixth place at 9:10 p.m. Saturday night. From Unalakleet -- the most populous village on the trail between Willow and Nome -- mushers have just 222 miles to the Burled Arch.
Local musher Mike Suprenant's race came to an end Saturday. The veteran from Chugiak made the decision to scratch at 1:40 p.m. in the ghost town of Iditarod, according to a release issued by race officials. The release said Suprenant made the decision out of concern for his dogs.
Fellow Chugiak musher Jim Lanier was last reported on the trail between Grayling and Eagle Island in 35th place, having left Grayling at 4:22 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
For current race updates, visit www.iditarod.com