published Sunday, March 9th, 2014

Zirkle maintains lead in Alaska's Iditarod race

Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Aliy Zirkle drives her dog team across the portage from Kaltag to Unalakleet. Zirkle is the first musher to reach the Bering Sea in Unalakleet during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Saturday, March 8, 2014.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Aliy Zirkle is holding on to the lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, leaving a checkpoint on Alaska's wind-scoured western coast almost an hour ahead of her closest rival.

The 44-year-old musher from Two Rivers, Alaska, left the Norton Sound village of Shaktoolik with 11 dogs at 7:12 a.m. Sunday for the 50-mile run to the next checkpoint at Koyuk.

She was followed at 8 a.m. by four-time champion Jeff King and his 12-dog team.

Zirkle has come in second place in the last two years in the nearly 1,000-mile race to Nome, 221 miles west of Shaktoolik. She is seeking to become only the third woman to win the race, and the first woman to win since the late Susan Butcher in 1990.

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