March 09, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) The Latest on the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (all times local):

4:35 p.m.

Dallas Seavey's sled just got a little heavier.

The 29-year-old musher was the first to reach the midway point of this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race when he arrived at the checkpoint in the desolate and unpopulated community of Cripple, Alaska, Wednesday afternoon.

He was presented the Dorothy G. Page Halfway Award and $3,000 in gold nuggets. Race officials said in a release that the nuggets are symbolic of the ties between gold mining and mushing in the historical Iditarod mining district. Page was considered the mother of the Iditarod.

Seavey is the reigning Iditarod champion and has won three out of the last four races across Alaska. The nearly 1,000-mile race started Sunday just north of Anchorage. It will end sometime early next week in Nome, located on the Bering Sea coast.

Eighty-five mushers started the race, and four have scratched.

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12:45 p.m.

Seven mushers with 14 championships among them are among the early leaders in this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Leading the pack is 29-year-old Dallas Seavey, the first musher to leave the checkpoint in Ophir (OH-fer), Alaska, early Wednesday morning. Seavey is the two-time defending champion who has won the race a total of three times.

The second musher to leave Ophir on the 73-mile trek to the next checkpoint in Cripple was Noah Burmeister. He is trying to become the first musher from Nome to win the race. The race will end sometime early next week in Nome, along the Bering Sea Coast.

Others out of Ophir are Kelly Maixner; 2011 champion John Baker; two-time winner Robert Sorlie of Norway; and a pair of four-time champions, Jeff King and Lance Mackey.

Eighty-five mushers began the nearly 1,000-mile race to Alaska's western coast on Sunday in Willow, just north of Anchorage. Since then, four mushers have scratched, including Hans Gatt of Whitehorse, Yukon. He cited concern for his dog team when scratching Wednesday at the Nikolai checkpoint.

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7:51 a.m.

Reigning champion Dallas Seavey held the lead Wednesday morning in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

The 29-year-old musher spent two and a half hours on the trail from Takotna (tak-KAHT'-nah), reached Ophir (OH-fer) at 2:16 a.m., and after a five-minute stop, departed again at 2:21 a.m.

That was about three and a half hours ahead of Noah Burmeister, who left Ophir just before 6 a.m. after a 15-minute rest.

John Baker was 10 minutes behind Burmeister.

Brent Sass, Nicolas Petit, Ken Anderson and other mushers were taking longer breaks in Ophir before a 90-mile run to Iditarod.

Wednesday is the fourth day of the 1,000-mile race to Nome.

The winner is expected to reach the finish line about nine days after the start of the race.

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