2016 Iron Dog snowmachine racers start to arrive in Nome

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Competitive Iron Dog teams started to arrive in Nome Tuesday.  Team Number #8, Tyler Ecklestad of Palmer and Tyson Johnson of Eagle River, arrived at the 1000 mile halfway point along the Iron Dog trail just after 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. They won $10,000 for their effort, but they weren’t the first team to arrive in Nome.

The very first team driving this year’s IronDog trail arrived more than two hours earlier, though with little fanfare.

The crowd was tiny because Kent Smith and Frank Ferreira are part of the recreational class of racers, but there was one special person there to greet them.

“I’m the Mayor, welcome!” cried Mayor Richard Beneville, as he greeted the team.

The rec class race starts two days before the pro class. They usually arrive in Nome around the same time, but this is the finish line for the recreational racers.

Frank Ferreira isn’t new to Nome or the Iron Dog. He grew up in Kotzebue and raced in the pro class in 2012 and 2013. He wanted to race in the pro class again this year I had a partner but he dropped out,” he said. ” I had some issues. I was supposed to actually run Team 19, but me and the partner weren’t getting along,” he said.

So, Ferreira teamed up with Marquette, Michigan native Kent Smith in the rec class. Smith said the best part about the thousand-mile trail is the people along the way. “Great people,” he said. “Everybody’s out there says hello [to] us and meets us… just great people.”

Nome is the finish line for rec class racers, but it’s only the halfway point for pro class racers. They have a long layover that includes a clocked repair session and a halfway banquet. They will turn around and head for the finish line in Fairbanks Thursday morning.

Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer.

Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF.

Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about.

Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.

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