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Grandson of Iditarod founder wins first race

Ryan Redington, 40, notched his first win of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and will take home the trophy that bears his grandfather Joe Redington Sr.’s likeness and name.

NOME, Alaska (CN) — Native drumming, singing and dancing greeted Ryan Redington under a midday sun and blue skies Tuesday as he crossed under the burled arch marking the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race — becoming the first of his founding race family to win in its 51-year history.

Redington, 40, with six of the 14 dogs he started with on March 5, cruised down Front Street in Nome at 12:13 p.m. He completed the 1,000-mile race in 8 days, 21 hours, 12 minutes and 58 seconds. This was Redington’s 16th attempt to bring the trophy home to his family, many of whom were waiting in person to hug and congratulate him at the finish.

“It means everything to bring that trophy home,” Redington told media and fans in the finish chute. “And, yeah, it’s been a goal of mine since a very small child to win the Iditarod. And I can’t believe it. It finally happened.”

He petted each of his dogs and gave them big chunks of frozen bacon while hundreds in the crowd cheered the finish that was also broadcast live on local TV news and cable channels in addition to the Iditarod’s own streaming service.

“It took a lot of work, took a lot of patience and we failed quite a few times, you know, but we kept our head up high and stuck with the dream,” Redington added.

He thanked his fans, family and most of all his brothers for their guidance and encouragement, as they too have tried to bring home the coveted Redington trophy. “Pretty major event grandpa started here,” Redington said.

Redington’s grandfather, Joe Redington Sr. helped found the race — dubbed the “last great race on earth.” It was first run in 1973 with 34 teams as a way to honor and revive a traditional mode of transportation between remote mostly Alaska Native communities where snow machines were rapidly replacing dog power in the 1960s. Since its inception fewer than 1,000 individuals have completed the Iditarod.

Raymie Redington, Ryan’s father, has raced a dozen Iditarods. Raymie’s brother Joee placed third in 1975. Ryan’s older brother Ray and younger brother Robert have also competed — Ray’s best finish was fourth and Robert’s was 22nd.

“Yeah it’s been a very dogged life for all of us,” Ryan Redington said to media in the chute. “And it is very — something that we all work toward every day, no days off, we think about winning the Iditarod.”

Redington will take home the top prize of $50,000 along with several other awards that he won by being the first to reach some of the 20-plus checkpoints along the route.

In another historic moment that reflects on Redington Sr.’s vision for the race, the second and third place finishers are also of Alaska Native descent. Finishing just over an hour after Redington, whose mother is Inupiat, second place went to Pete Kaiser, the 2019 champion and first Yup’ik musher to win the Iditarod. Richie Diehl, of Athabaskan decent, finished in third about an hour after Kaiser.

Of the 33 teams that started the race on March 5, only three have “scratched” — calling an early end to their race due to personal injuries on the trail, dog illness or lack of enthusiasm — so far. Racers will trickle in over the course of this week until the finisher’s banquet Sunday and the red lantern is doused to signify the last musher is off the trail.

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