Nineteen-year-old Raymond Alexie’s perfect mushing season continued by winning the 2023 Akiak Dash in commanding fashion. The Kwethluk musher arrived in Bethel at 4:54 p.m. Saturday after outpacing a field of 15 mushers from Bethel to Akiak and back.
“It feels good,” Alexie said.
Alexie won the Season Opener, the Holiday Classic, and the prestigious Bogus Creek 150 two weeks ago over reigning champion Pete Kaiser. Alexie’s first victory came in his fourth running of the race and builds on his second-place performance in the 2022 Akiak Dash. Alexie ran alone for much of the race after setting a hot pace from the start.
“After the turnaround I saw a couple people. After going back, I don’t know, I didn’t see anyone,” he said. “Just cars and snow-gos.“
The Jan. 28 race began with a mass start at noon on the Kuskokwim River in front of Bethel. Alexie was the first to the halfway mark in Akiak, outpacing Mike Williams Jr. and Charlie Chingliak. There was no required rest in this year’s race. After a quick turn around, Alexie extended his lead on the return trip to Bethel. Alexie said that he nearly got off track for a moment.
“There was one spot I almost went the wrong way so I had to cut across the road down below Akiak,” he said.
Alexie said that the reason he’s been able to drive his team to an undefeated season is because he’s been able to spend more time training after finishing school.
“I’m training harder a lot this year without school. Last year, with school, I was only going 20 to 40 miles, he said. “This year it’s mainly 50 to 70 miles.”
Alexie takes home a winner’s check for about $4,700 from the race’s $30,000 purse. After victories in the Akiak Dash and Bogus Creek 150, Alexie said that he’s thinking about moving up to the Kuskokwim 300 next year. But if he isn’t racing dogs next year, he still wants to go fast: he’s thinking about attending flight school.
Akiak’s Williams Jr. took second place, arriving 23 minutes after Alexie.
“The dogs did good overall. I had a problem with one that was getting hot. She started overheating by the Gweek, just 10 miles from here, so I loaded them to let them cool off for a while, then load them back on the team,” said Williams Jr.
The youngest musher of the race earned a spot on the podium with a third-place finish.
Fourteen-year-old Akiachak musher Chingliak clinched the Rookie of the Year award after finishing 17 minutes behind Williams Jr., running a team that originated with dogs from Williams Jr.’s kennel.
“I was trying to keep up with [Williams Jr.], but he ditched me,” said Chingliak. “I had to come alone.”
Fourth place went to Akiachak musher Darren George. Kwethluk musher Herman Phillip finished one minute later to round out the top five.