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2024 Kuskokwim 300 reaches registration capacity

Mushers head down the chute at the start of the Kuskokwim 300. January 27, 2023 in Bethel, Alaska.
Katie Basile
Mushers head down the chute at the start of the Kuskokwim 300. January 27, 2023 in Bethel, Alaska.

For the first time in recent history, the Kuskokwim 300 (K300) has reached the 30 sled dog team threshold. It only took 10 days to fill the roster since registration opened on Monday, Oct. 9, according to race manager Paul Basile.

“We've only had that cap in place for eight or 10 years, or board members don't quite recall when the cap was created. And if you go back to the 80s and early 90s, there were some years where we had more than 30 teams in the race,” said Basile.  

There’s a reason for that: Bethel is not equipped to handle such a dramatic increase of tourists, fans, and sled dog teams.

“Thirty teams is kind of the most we can handle logistically in terms of housing mushers and their teams here in Bethel, and then moving supplies and dogs up and down the river. During the race we, the board, identified 30 is maybe the threshold of what we can handle. But since they set that cap of 30 teams, we have not met it, and we haven't been particularly close to reaching it. So it's really exciting,” Basile said.

Basile also said that there is currently one team on the waiting list. Basile is encouraging teams to register even if they think they might want to join the race. If a spot opens up, racers can just go to the K300 website and fill out the registration form. The K300 does things differently, so it’s not surprising that they’re not requiring any advance fee to be paid for teams on the waiting list.

"And then if other teams withdraw and spots become available, we'll work our way down that waiting list. And when called upon, the musher will have 24 hours to decide if they're going to race and pay their entry fee," Basile said.

The full list of competitors is on the K300 website and include household names like Pete Kaiser, Brent Sass, Richie Diehl, and Matt Failor. The biggest surprise on the list of competitors for Basile was veteran Jeff King. The four-time Iditarod champion has not competed in the K300 since 2020.

“Jeff loves this race. He’s been coming out here for decades. And he's the nine-time champion of the K300. And he's got the most victories of any musher. So it'll be really exciting to have him back out here,” Basile said.

King is a 67-year-old California transplant, but has lived in Alaska since 1975. He and other seasoned veterans will compete against the future of the sport, like 23-year-old Hunter Keefe, from Knik, who placed 11th in the 2023 Iditarod. A pair of hungry competitors from Kwethluk have also signed up. Jason Pavila, who was Rookie of the Year in last year’s K300, is just 20 years old. Raymond Alexie is competing in his first K300.

“[Alexie is] coming off an incredible year of racing last season. And I think, you know, anybody who's paying attention to dog racing out here is going to be excited to see him make that next step to the K300,” Basile said.

Daylight savings time has expired. Nights are getting longer, the temperature is dropping, and soon the Kuskokwim River will freeze. But that also means the racing season is near and the competition will heat up.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.