From Kyle Hopkins in Nome --
DeeDee Jonrowe knows Nome. Over four decades, she’s steered dog teams into the burled arch finish line 27 times.
She knows the Buser boys too. A family friend of four-time champion Martin Buser and his 22-year-old son Rohn, Jonrowe once sent a litter of puppies named after Sarah Palin’s children to a kind of “summer camp” at the Buser kennel in Big Lake.
But Jonrowe said she’s never seen anything quite like the snout-to-snout finish staged by the father-and-son traveling partners Thursday morning.
“Never seen a father and son come across, and I’ve never seen anybody be able to put lead dogs in at the same time. That was gorgeous,” said Jonrowe, who placed 10th.
Before the Iditarod, Rohn Buser said both mushers picked dogs from the same kennel. He wouldn’t say which Buser family lineup was faster.
“Well, I guess you guys are going to have to find out,” the younger Buser said outside the pre-race musher banquet.
But by the Nikolai checkpoint, just 236 miles into the race, Buser said he and his son had both been hampered by drawing late starting positions on the soft trail. “The trail got progressively worse and we had snow and snow and snow and so we had to jump on the bandwagon and short rest,” Martin Buser said.
The musher, who had placed 18th in last year’s Iditarod, traveled much of the 2012 race with his son.
“We made up the plan, if we were going the same speed we’d be traveling together. But if my team was faster or his team was faster, we wouldn’t wait for the other one,” Rohn Buser said. “But it turned out we were the same speed.”
Martin Buser, who turns 54 at the end of the month, wouldn’t cop to planning the photo finish with his son.
“I was chasing him down! I thought I was going to get the right of passage here for being an old man, but no he was working and kicking and screaming and whooping and hollering,” he said as Rohn tossed frozen bricks of meat to both teams.
“I mustered up all the energy I had and just barely pulled even with him at the finish,” Buser said.
Of course it was planned, said race marshal Mark Nordman. According to the official time card, signed by the mushers at the finish, both racers arrived at the same moment. A time of 10 days, 18 hours, 10 minutes and 12 seconds.
Race officials awarded the edge in the snout-to-snout finish to Rohn, Nordman said, holding his fingers about two inches apart to punctuate how close the leaders crossed the finish line. Literally, the length of a nose.