MARQUETTE - This year's Midnight Run dog sled race was more in the spotlight this year for local spectators, what with it finishing in Marquette instead of Munising.
That made the exciting Saturday finish of the 90-mile, eight-dog race even more notable.
Jake Golton of L'Amable, Ontario, and his dog team crossed the line first at Mattson Lower Harbor Park at 10:43 a.m. Five seconds later, Kris Sampson of South River, Ontario, finished the race with his team.
Jake Golton and his sled dog team cross the finish line first in the Midnight Run shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday, with Kris Sampson and his team shown in the background, finishing 5 seconds behind Golton. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
Spectators await the finish of the Midnight Runs in Mattson Lower Harbor Park. This year the race ended in Marquette instead of Munising. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)
Golton's actual race time was 8 hours, 17 minutes and 38 seconds.
Even though he was the victor and the winner of the $2,300 top prize, Golton said: "It feels more like a tie, I guess."
Golton, who was competing in his first Midnight Run, said the first part of the race was slow and snowy.
But after the required 5 -hour layover in Chatham, things sped up.
Sampson, who won $2,000 as runner-up, said he and Golton left Saturday morning from the Chatham checkpoint about 20 seconds apart, and then began to take turns in the lead, chatting and laughing.
But the Midnight Run still is a competitive event, and Golton took off during the last five miles, Sampson said.
"It was a good race," Sampson said. "That's a race."
It could have ended differently. Sampson said one of Golton's lead dogs stopped for a bathroom break, allowing him to make up some ground, but the temporary halt in action didn't prevent Golton from winning the race.
This year's race was the first Midnight Run for Golton and Sampson, who knew each other before the event.
"We don't train together, but we race against each other a fair bit," " Sampson said.
The Red Lantern winner finishing last was Brian Kandler of downstate Mason, who finished 23rd. Six teams were scratched from the 29 that started the race in downtown Marquette Friday evening.
Race results for the Midnight Run can be viewed on the UPSDA website at www.up200.org.
In the U.P. 200 Sled Dog Championships third race - the Jack Pine 30 - Matt Sturmer of Bruce Crossing won the 26-mile race that began and finished Saturday in Gwinn. Sturmer, who won the $200 first-place prize, finished the race in 2 hours, 31 minutes and 41 seconds. A total of 19 mushers registered for the race.
Torreano said of the six scratches in the Midnight Run, one dog team immediately halting after one of the checkpoints and refusing to continue.
"Trail conditions could have been tough on some dogs' feet," she said.
However, Torreano noted six scratches isn't a bad number for a race.
Anna Sanford, Midnight Run volunteer coordinator, said she was pleased with the new Marquette-to-Chatham route because the trail offered a decreased risk of injury, plus the mushers were happy to experience finishing at the Lower Harbor.
"It gives more of a sense of importance to the Midnight Run," Torreano said.
Chatham checkpoint coordinator Sarah Kimball said: "The mushers are just very, very pleased. They're very happy. They like the recognition."
With 29 teams originally taking off from downtown Marquette on Friday, spirits also were high.
"The camaraderie of all the Midnight Run mushers is just great," Kimball said.
Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.