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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

In a rare sweep, Alaska Natives take the top 3 spots in the 50th Iditarod

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. The new champion of the annual thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a grandson of the race's founder. And that's just one of the things that's interesting about his background. Alaska Public Media's Lex Treinen reports from the finish line.

LEX TREINEN, BYLINE: On Tuesday afternoon, people crowded along Nome's Main Street along the frozen Bering Sea coast to watch Ryan Redington finish. Redington, dressed in a heavy, lime green parka with a thick fur ruff, ran alongside his dog sled and waved to the crowd.

(CHEERING)

TREINEN: He says he's been dreaming of winning the race for a lot longer than just the nine days it took him to finish.

RYAN REDINGTON: Yeah, it's been a goal of mine since a very small child to win the Iditarod. And I can't believe it finally happened.

TREINEN: For winning, he'll get a cash prize and a bronze trophy bearing the bust of his grandfather, Joe Redington Sr., a co-founder of the Iditarod. Redington's win is made even more significant by the next two finishers, who, like Redington, claim Alaska Native ancestry.

(CHEERING)

TREINEN: About an hour behind Redington, Pete Kaiser finished. The Yupik musher says having a podium of three Alaska Native mushers is historic.

PETE KAISER: I mean, it's almost unheard of, you know, aside from some of the earlier days of the race, when there was more participation from rural teams and Native teams.

TREINEN: This year was the smallest field in the Iditarod's 51-year history, with just 33 teams who started. Mushing in rural communities in particular has been on the decline since the elder Redington started the race to keep Alaska's state sport thriving. Competitive mushers started keeping more dogs over the past decades. That makes competing more expensive, especially in rural Alaska. Here's third place finisher Richie Diehl of Southwest Alaska.

RICHIE DIEHL: We're living in a day and age where, you know, in Aniak, the price of gasoline is almost nine bucks a gallon.

TREINEN: But in his region, mushing seems to be thriving.

DIEHL: It shows that in some parts of Alaska, in rural Alaska, that mushing isn't dying.

TREINEN: The three top finishers hope to fulfill the vision of Joe Redington Sr., to keep Alaska's mushing tradition strong. But after more than a week of racing, they need a nap first. For NPR News, I'm Lex Treinen in Nome, Alaska. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lex Treinen