Ellis wins back to back titles, claims sixth ONAC victory

Egil Ellis of Willow, AK and his team of 14 started last during a reverse order start on Sunday on the last day of the 60th annual GCI Open North American Championship. But neither the 35 mph driving winds or starting at the back seemed to affect Ellis or his team, as they went on to the win at the 2005 GCI Open North American Championship for the second year in a row.

Ellis had a 3-day total time of 210:55.9 and also set a third-day track record with his day time of 87:57.6. This is the sixth Open win for Ellis, tying him with Roland Lombard as second most race wins.

Salcha, AK musher Eric Lanser retained his second place finish with a combined time of 218:41.3, finishing with one of his 14 dogs in his sled, followed by Joee Redington of Manley, AK with a time of 220:01.8

Sunday’s race course was in great condition, in spite of teams combatting cold temperatures and winds up to 35 mph and the weather seemed to have little effect on the competitors.

“It was cold, but I don’t think it affected the dogs that much,” Ellis said. “There was one spot just after we went through the golf course where I almost got blown off the sled, but the dogs never looked like they were going to freeze up.”

The teams of the 60th annual running of the ‘granddaddy of them all’, as well as champions from the past 60 years, were honored at a special awards banquet on Sunday after the race. Musher John Simon of Bethel, AK received the Red Lantern award for his 15th place finish, as well as being selected by his competitors for the Sportsman of the Year award for his ‘never say die’ attitude on the trail. Hughes musher Hugh Bifelt won the coveted Morris Thompson award for best team entered from the Alaskan villages. Wasilla musher Sato Konno won the Rookie of the Year title for her 10th place finish on her first running of the race. Competitors in the 2005 GCI Open North American will split a combined purse of $35,000, paid thorugh 15 places.

Thanks to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner for their contribution to this article.

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