SEELEY LAKE – Darby musher Jessica Royer won the 2015 Race to the Sky late Monday, arriving at the Seeley Lake finish line just ahead of her 17-year-old protege who kept pace with her for much of the 300-mile route.
Royer crossed the finish at the Morrell Creek Trailhead north of Seeley Lake at 9:45 p.m. She was three miles ahead of Victor musher Aiyana Ferraro, who trains with Royer in the southern Bitterroot Valley. Ferraro finished about 30 minutes later.
Had she won, Ferraro would have been the youngest ever to win the Race to the Sky’s longest race. Royer set, and still holds, that record. She won the 500-mile race in 1994 at age 17. Ferraro is a couple of months younger than Royer was at that time.
At press time, Brett Bruggeman of Great Falls was on the trail between the White Tail Ranch and Seeley Lake. Also still on the trail was Bryce Mumford of Preston, Idaho; he was headed for the White Tail Ranch and a mandatory six-hour layover, then can make the final push to Seeley.
The original field of 11 for the 300-mile dwindled to just four Monday on the warm, mushy trail. Lachlan Clark and his protege, Chris Dale, both of Buena Vista, Colorado, were the last to withdraw.
Chris Adkins of Sand Coulee dropped out Sunday at Seeley Lake. Last year’s winner, Jenny Greger of Bozeman, and runner-up Laura Daugereau of Stockett and Kingston, Washington, were among four mushers to withdraw at Owl Creek early Monday, along with Josi Thyr of Cataldo, Idaho, and Clayton Perry of Power.
“Trails were hard-packed and icy, and conditions going to Owl Creek were very warm for the dogs,” race secretary Pam Beckstrom said.
On Sunday morning, 13-year-old Spencer Bruggeman of Great Falls was first back to Seeley Lake among the 100-mile racers. He was the lone Junior 100 entrant.
Jerry Bath of Lander, Wyo., followed at 10:25 a.m. to finish first in the Adult 100. Doug Ferraro of Victor, Aiyana’s father, was second at 10:44 a.m. and Laurie Warren of Council, Idaho, took third at 10:56 a.m.
Fifteen mushers finished the 100-mile race. Three withdrew: Jean Wise of Sand Coulee, and April Cox and Hugo Antonucci of Adin, Calif. Race officials said Antonucci lost his footing and injured his leg. He was taken to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula and released.