Wednesday, March 19
Bybee gets the red lantern for finishing last in Iditarod

Associated Press

NOME, Alaska -- Russ Bybee was awarded the red lantern Tuesday for being the last musher to cross the finish line in the 2003 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

It took the Willow musher 15 days, 5 hours, 30 minutes and 53 seconds to reach Nome. Bybee, a rookie, arrived at 3:30 p.m., the last of 44 teams to finish the Iditarod this year.

Sixty-four teams competed in the race for a $600,000 purse. Twenty teams scratched.

Robert Sorlie, a 45-year-old firefighter from Hurdahl, Norway, was the second non-Alaskan to win the race. The first non-Alaskan was four-time champion Doug Swingley of Lincoln, Mont., who did not compete in the race.

Sorlie took the lead early in the race and was challenged late by second-place finisher Ramy Brooks of Healy. Sorlie finished in nine days, 15 hours, 47 minutes and 36 seconds.

While Sorlie has said he will not race next year, Brooks -- who now has finished second for two consecutive years -- said he's already thinking about how he can do a bit better in the 2004 Iditarod.

A lack of snow this winter forced the race's restart to move north to Fairbanks. Race officials also were forced this year to change the route, creating a new trail that was 70 miles longer than the traditional 1,100-mile trail.

The changes were the most dramatic since the race from Anchorage to Nome began in 1973.

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