To the sound of Native drummers and cheering fans, John Baker and his team of record-setting huskies claimed victory in the 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this morning in Nome, ending Lance Mackey's string of four victories and securing the first win by a Western Alaska musher in the 1,000-mile race across Alaska.
Baker crossed the line at 9:46 a.m., finishing the race that began March 6 in Willow in 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, 39 seconds and slicing three hours off the previous record.
"I feel good. Real good," Baker said in the finish chute. "Running a team like this, there's nothing better. They are willing to climb any obstacle and make the most of it. I'm really proud of them."
Baker finished with 10 dogs, including one that got tangled just before the finish line.
Baker left his sled and walked to the front of his team, took the dog by its harness and led it under Nome's famed burled arch. Ahead of them, Baker's black lead dog Velvet wagged its tail.
"Good dogs! Good dogs!" someone in the crowd of Front Street spectators said.
"I think so," Baker said.
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