Today John Baker, the winner of the 2011 Iditarod crossed the finish line at around 12:50pm CST:
John Baker and his team of record-setting huskies claimed victory this morning in the 39th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, ending Lance Mackey’s string of four victories and securing the first win by a Western Alaska musher.
Baker pulled away from Willow’s Ramey Smyth on the 55-mile run from White Mountain to Safety. In doing so, he eliminated Smyth’s chances of sprinting past him on the 22-mile stretch between Safety and Nome, a stretch Smyth dominates with regularity.
Instead of the down-to-the-wire finish anticipated by some only a day earlier, Nome’s Front Street belonged to Baker, and Baker alone.
A 48-year-old from Kotzebue, Baker took advantage of near-perfect weather and a team toughened by life above the Arctic Circle to slice two or three hours off Martin Buser’s 2002 race record of 8 days, 22 hours.
It was a finish for the history books. Not only did his time of 8 days 19 hours 46 minutes shatter Martin Buser’s record pace for the fastest Iditarod by a full three hours Baker, an Inupiaq, became the first native Alaskan to win the race.
When Joe Reddington, Sr. founded the Iditarod back in 1973 he had looked around the villages and found the interest in sled dogs and sled dog racing dwindling, a tragic loss of heritage. His hope was that the race would spur interest particularly among native Alaskans. Now John Baker has brought that dream to fruition.
A great moment.
John Baker, 48, was born and raised in Kotzebue, Alaska where they can reasonably refer to Nome as way down south. He has been competing in the Iditarod since 1996 and is a commercial pilot. Now he’s a hero from Alaska to Greenland.