Montana's Jessie Royer joins Iditarod leaders on second day

Montana's Jessie Royer joins Iditarod leaders on second day

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Montana musher Jessie Royer was second into the Nikolai checkpoint Tuesday morning as the leaders of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race played early-race leapfrog.

Royer, of Seeley Lake, is trying to improve on her career-best third place finish last year. She reached Nikolai, roughly 260 miles into the 975-mile race to Nome, at 10:56 a.m. Alaska time (12:56 p.m. Mountain). She was 23 minutes behind Iditarod veteran Richie Diehl of Aniak, Alaska, whose best finish to date was sixth place in 2018.

Six other teams arrived at Nikolai within an hour of Royer’s arrival. They included 2018 Iditarod champion Joar Leifseth Ulsom, last year’s winner Peter Kaiser of Alaska, and Thomas Waerner of Norway, who led the 57-team pack into the previous checkpoint at Rohn.

Eight of the first 13 teams to the checkpoint, including Diehl's and Royer's, still had their full teams of 14 dogs. The other five had 13.

Brent Sass of Eureka, Alaska, arrived at Nikoali three hours after the leaders but was first to leave after a nine-minute stop. His next stop was McGrath, 48 miles up the trail. 

Gabe Dunham of Darby, an Iditarod rookie, was in 40th place and resting in Rohn, 75 miles from Nikolai. 

The race started Sunday for 57 mushers in Willow, Alaska. The winner is expected at the finish line in Nome sometime next week.

— Missoulian and Associated Press

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