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Bethel Sprint Club racing season begins with a race up the river and back

Dogs anxiously await the start of the 2019 Akiak Dash in Bethel, Alaska on Jan. 19, 2019.
Katie Basile
Dogs anxiously await the start of the 2019 Akiak Dash in Bethel, Alaska on Jan. 19, 2019.

The Bethel Sprint Club held their first race of the season on Saturday, Jan 6. Eighteen teams arrived at the mouth of the small boat harbor for a mass start at 11 a.m. Just 2 hours and 59 minutes later, Raymond Alexie crossed the finish line in first place. Darren George came in second at 3 hours and 6 minutes, and Jason Pavilla crossed in third place a minute later.

The race was roughly 32 miles long and had an eight dog limit. There was a $30,000 purse divided between the top 15 finishers.

Sled dog teams traveled upriver to Straight Slough, then towards the mouth of the Gweek River. The race trail ran around the back side of the island near the mouth of the Gweek, then to the Kuskokwim towards Akiachak. Mushers then used the snowmachine portage trail to Kuskokuak Slough before turning downriver, eventually meeting up with the same trail back to the finish in Bethel.

The Bethel Sprint Club organizers said that the next race isn’t scheduled yet. They do plan to hold at least one more race this winter, most likely sometime in February or March.

The complete list of teams and final standings with times can be found on the Bethel Sprint Mushers Club Facebook page.

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.