Podium sweep by trio of Alaska Native mushers highlights Iditarod 51
Ryan Redington, Pete Kaiser and Richie Diehl reflect on taking the top three positions in the 51st running of the race
NOME, Alaska (KTUU) - Ryan Redington brought home an historic win with his victory in Iditarod 51, marking the first time ever a Redington has been named champion in the iconic race.
He’s also part of the special trio making up this year’s top three teams, with the mushers who led them having long been part of the sled dog culture the Iditarod was built upon.
In an unprecedented showing, all three podium finishers are Alaska Native, with Redington, who is Iñupiat, leading the charge.
“Being the first Redington to win is really a cool feeling,” Redington said. “And it’s a win for the Redington family, and for the people who have been rooting for the Redingtons throughout the state.
“My grandpa started this race for everybody, but especially for Alaska Native mushers,” he continued. “To have three of us in the top three is very cool.”
Along with Redington, 2019 Iditarod champion and 2023 runner-up Pete Kaiser and 2023 third-place finisher Richie Diehl are part of a roster of top teams in the final standings that’s not been seen before.
“There’s not a lot of Alaska Native teams in the race to begin with,” Kaiser said, who is Yup’ik, shortly after crossing under the Burled Arch. “Three out of four in the top three is almost unheard of, you know. It’s like the earlier days of the race, where there was more participation from rural and Native teams. But I think it’s great, and hopefully, inspiring to another generation of kids in rural Alaska or anywhere.”
Diehl, who is of Dena’ina Athabaskan descent, also said he thought it was great to see all Alaska Native mushers in the top three.
“A good showing for rural Alaska,” Diehl said following his run into Nome. “You know, we’re living in a day and age where, in Aniak, gasoline is nine bucks a gallon. And, here we are, got good family, good sponsors, and everybody supporting us.
“It shows that in some parts of Alaska, in rural Alaska, mushing isn’t dying,” he added, “which is cool.”
The inspiration has moved from generation to generation over the course of decades. Iditarod veteran Aaron Burmeister, who was born and raised in Nome, has completed all of the 21 Iditarod runs he’s attempted since the early 1990s, and took the runner-up spot in 2021. For him, Redington’s win — coupled with Kaiser and Diehl coming in right after him — is “one of the most special wins” he’s seen.
“Having Ryan, third-generation, and his mom from Unalakleet,” Burmeister said. “Bringing that in our top three, with Iditarod this year, Ryan, Pete and Richie are Alaska Natives. It’s one of the most special things for the event. And it shows that we can still do it.”
Longtime Iditarod Race Marshal Mark Nordman, who’s been in his role for several decades, said seeing three Alaska Native mushers in the top three means a lot to him as well.
“They’re all good friends of mine,” Nordman said before sharing a story about 19-year-old Raymond Alexie’s win in the first race of the Kuskokwim season as part of the new Delta Championship Series. The Kwethluk teen, in a short race of only a few dozen miles, beat Kaiser to kick off his season. “Pete called me earlier this winter and said, ‘Isn’t it cool I got beaten by this young man?’ So they’re looking to bring up a whole generation of mushers.
“These guys coming through here just shows that you can do it,” he added. “It’s a big deal for the race. We need more of the rural Alaska mushers to come into this thing, and I think these (finishers) prove that it can be done.”
Redington checked into Nome at 12:12 p.m. on Tuesday. Kaiser followed, shortly after 1:36 p.m., with Diehl arriving right around 2:40 p.m. the same afternoon. The full list of current standings can be found on the Iditarod website.
Copyright 2023 KTUU. All rights reserved.