LINCOLN — Jessie Royer drove her dog team through the finish line Monday night, creating history as the Young Living Race to the Sky’s first-ever four time champion, and sixth consecutive woman to win the long race.
“I am not going to say it was an easy race, but it was a good race overall,” Royer said as she filled bowls with food for her dogs. “The hardest part of the race was the soft trail going into Owl Creek.”
The 41-year-old musher has long been making history at the Race to the Sky. In 1994, at age 17, she was the first female and youngest musher to win the race -- it was a 500-mile race then. She has since won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
Royer also has her sights on the 1,000-mile Alaska Iditarod, where she also has an extensive race background, including a fifth place standing last year. In 2001 she earned rookie of the year with a 14th place finish. Since that first Iditarod she has finished in the top 10 on six occasions, and from 2008-2011 she was the highest placing female. She plans to compete in this year’s race as well.
“The most exciting part of the race was chasing two moose down the trail a couple miles,” Royer said. “They did not want to get off the trail.”
“She is a serious competitor and she knows dogs,” Pam Beckstrom, race secretary, said when asked about Royer’s approach to mushing. “She knows dogs really well.”
Dylan Harris finished second, and, as of press time Monday, Laurie Warren was on track to finish third with Brett Bruggeman trailing her by 10 miles.
In recent races, warmer-than-average conditions and rain have diminished trail quality. According to race officials, trail conditions couldn’t be better for this year’s race thanks to snow conditions and the volunteers' efforts to keep trails groomed.
“The trail conditions have been amazing,” Beckstrom said.
Weather conditions have been “pretty brutal,” with temperature reaching minus 17 degrees and winds as high as 50 miles per hour. But Beckstrom says the dogs are “happy campers” and mushers are performing well given the subzero temperatures.
“We have had a really good field of competitors this year,” Beckstrom said. “They aren’t just a bunch of really good mushers, they are really good people.”