Nathaniel Hamlyn wins Percy DeWolfe race
Nathaniel Hamlyn continued his team’s recent success with a wire-to-wire win in the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Race, reaching the finish line at 12:08 p.m. on March 4, 2022, for a total run time of 18 hours even over the 170-mile (275-kilometre) trail.
Hamlyn said the race was “grueling” and that his team worked hard to stay on trail – particularly after dark.
Markers used on the loop of trail past Forty Mile were mostly willows with flagging tape, Hamlyn said, so he and his dogs had to stay focused to follow the trail.
Being the front-running team also added a layer of challenge for his team.
“I was in the front of both races the whole time,” Hamlyn said. “(So) there was zero dog track and the dogs couldn’t smell the other teams. Connor (McMahon) was chasing me the whole race and he never caught me, so that feels kind of good.”
McMahon was the second musher into the finish, arriving at 3:52 p.m. with a running time of 21 hours and 44 minutes.
Although McMahon wanted to repeat as winner, he was happy to see a good friend beat him.
Hamlyn has been training his team to transition from long-distance races to shorter ones, while McMahon has been building his team up to tackle longer races – something McMahon quickly noted.
“It was amazing and it just really speaks to the training programs you put your dogs in. I’m gearing up for these bigger, longer races so my team has definitely slowed down but their mental (strength) has really grown. Their stamina has really gotten to where it needs to be,” McMahon said. “Nathaniel has gone to shorter races. We criss-crossed and it was just so beautiful. Now I know how he was feeling last year on the runners. I’m like, ‘Nathaniel, how the hell are you so fast, man?’ But it’s always nice being beat by the better dog team and when it happens to be one of your good buddies, I was just so ecstatic for him.”
Hamlyn was led down the trail by Aquila and Orien, his go-to lead dogs, and his attempts to give younger dogs time up front were short-lived.
“I was going to try some younger dogs in lead, but the trail was just too (challenging),” Hamlyn said. “I tried it once and then they took a wrong turn, and I don’t have the patience.”
While his Yukon Quest 100 victory featured wet boots, Hamlyn stayed dry this time – opting for ice over overflow.
“I stayed out of the water, but that’s when I fell on the ice, so pick your poison,” Hamlyn said before dryly elaborating. “The cool thing about a seat is you can get stuck in it, under it. It’s not (actually) cool because you can get hurt, but the team can’t take off because you’re stuck in it. It’s like a failsafe.”
And so, after a 30-foot horizontal stretch as a human snow hook, he was able to get back on the runners and continue his race.
Third place went to American musher Quince Mountain who made the trek all the way from Wisconsin to race. Mountain crossed the finish line at 5:45 p.m. with a run time of 23 hours and 37 minutes.
Ilana Kingsley finished fourth, arriving at 10:46 p.m. with a run time of 28 hours and 38 minutes.
Martine Le Levier wins Percy Jr.
Martine Le Levier won the 100-mile (160-km) Percy Jr. race at 7:42 a.m. on March 4, 2022, finishing first with a total run time of 10 hours and 36 minutes.
Second place went to Jess Sears, who finished at 7:46 a.m. with a total run time of 10 hours and 40 minutes, and third place went to Matt McHugh who finished at 7:53 a.m. with a total run time of 10 hours and 47 minutes.
After the initial three teams finished within 11 minutes of each other, there was a chance for volunteers to catch their breath before Krys March crossed the finish line at 12:39 p.m. with a very happy team of dogs to wrap up the Percy Jr. with a final run time of 15 hours and 33 minutes.
Race awards banquet held
The final point of business with the 2022 Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race was the post-race awards banquet, held at the Klondike Visitors Association on March 5 at noon.
In addition to prizes for finishing, a number of other special awards were handed out.
Two Red Lanterns were awarded to the last-place finishers in each race – Kingsley in the Percy and March in the Percy Jr.
Two Vet Care Awards were also handed out, with Mountain winning for the Percy and local musher McHugh in the Percy Jr.
Mountain was also recognized with the Rookie of the Year Award and the Sportsmanship Award.
Lastly, March was recognized with the Spirit of the North Award given to a musher “who encompasses the essence of Percy DeWolfe” and now has a locally-made fur hat that was the talk of the banquet to show for it.