Tre West wins Kotzebue snowmachine race in record time
The annual Archie Ferguson/Willie Goodwin Sr. Memorial Snowmachine Race went off on schedule after organizers feared that the course wouldn’t be suitable for race day, Saturday, April 6.
Warm temperatures had softened the trail and brought as much as a foot of water to sections of the frozen Kobuk River. But by race day it was all frozen and race marshal Claude Wilson described it as a “200 mph course.”
The all-time course record fell to Nome’s Tre West, who burned up the snow to finish in the Open Class with a record breaking time of 2:23:42. The old record of 2:27:35 set by Steven Williamson of Kotzebue stood for ten years. Not far behind West was Mike Morgan, 56 seconds slower for second place.
“It was the smoothest I’ve ever seen it and that’s what everybody else said, too,” said West. “I’ve never seen it that fast up there.” The Nugget asked if he had to make any changes to the sled to accommodate the high speed. “I didn’t have any problems at all, just a stock sled.”
West rode a Ski-Doo 850.
He guessed his average speed for the entire 220- mile race was around 105 mph. “I don’t think there’s any other race in Alaska that’s that fast,” he said.
It was necessary to slow down in the portages and in the pass between Kiana and Selawik, but otherwise speed was king.
It was a good day for the Nome riders. “Everyone did pretty well up there,” said West. He commented on how the record for the Kotzebue race is now held by a Nome rider and the record for the Nome-Golovin is held by a Kotzebue rider. That record, set by Calvin Schaeffer in 2000, won’t last forever, says West. “These days the sleds are getting better so the record here in Nome is going to get broken someday,” he said.
For the victory, his second year in a row, West took home a total of $8,450 and his Iron Dog entry fee for next year will be paid. He plans to do the Iron Dog next year.
“It went off really well,” said race marshal Claude Wilson. “We had a couple complications.” One rider was injured when a sled blew a track at 100 mph. The track went flying and knocked Winter Jones off his snogo. According to Wilson the ankle could be broken or it could be sprained. But considering the high speed the injury is a lucky one.
Finishing in the money was also Nome’s John Bahnke III in the B Class, with a third place finish and a time of 2:33:33. Nicholas Olstad and Troy Conlon tied for first place and won the B Class in a time of 2:31:31.
Michael Hensley II won the A Class (fan cooled), followed by Terrance Hoffman III and Joe Foxglove, Jr. Troy Conlon took Rookie of the Year honors.