Brett Bruggeman of Great Falls was on track Monday evening to give the Montana Race to the Sky sled dog race its first dentist for a champion.
Bruggeman, 48, pulled into the last checkpoint at the Whitetail Ranch northeast of Ovando at around 3:30 p.m., hours ahead of four pursuers in the 300-mile race.
All five mushers are required to give their teams a six-hour rest at Whitetail, 51 miles from the finish line near Lincoln. Bruggeman was projected to reach Lincoln around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
At 5:45 p.m. Monday, Clayton Perry of Power was 13 miles from Whitetail and Gabe Dunham of Darby was roughly a half-mile behind him. Minnesotans Cindy Gallea and Damon Ramaker were traveling together 15 miles from the checkpoint.
None of the mushers in this year’s 300-mile race have won before. Bruggeman and Gallea both have second-place finishes on their resumes. Both will head to Alaska after Race to the Sky for the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that starts March 2.
If he proceeds to victory, Bruggeman will break a string of seven consecutive Races to the Sky won by women.
Race officials released the results of the 100-mile race from Lincoln to Seeley Lake, which finished Sunday.
Rick Larson of Belt won for the third straight year, finishing at 8:19 a.m. He was followed in the next 40 minutes by Jenny Roddewig, Bozeman (8:25 a.m.); Charmayne Morrison, Bozeman (8:30 a.m.); Patrick Roy, Plains (8:37 a.m.); Laura Daugereau, Stockett (8:57 a.m.), and David Hassilev, Priest River, Idaho (8:58 a.m.).
Following the lead pack were James Pilcher and Miriam Osredkar of Fairfield (10:02 and 10:03 a.m.); Roy Etnire of Seeley Lake (10:50 a.m.); Janet Bahe of Togo, Minnesota (11:05 a.m.) and Steve Madsen, Cougar, Washington, 12:31 a.m.
Nicole Grangroth of Manahga, Minnesota, was the only entrant in the Junior 100. She was seventh across the line at 9:30 a.m.
Gangroth received the Jack Beckstrom Sportsmanship Award as voted on by the mushers. At 16, she’s the youngest person to receive the award in the field of adult mushers.
Larson was awarded the coveted Jack Beckstrom Best Cared for Team prize by race veterinarians.
This year’s race was dedicated to Beckstrom for his lifelong impact on dog mushing in Montana. Beckstrom, of Olney, passed away on March 5, 2018, of a heart attack.