• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
5m 32s

What happened to Brent Sass? Former Quest winner talks about Iditarod woes

By Jason Sear / John Thain 1:26 PM March 16, 2016


NOME — What happened to Brent Sass? He seemed poised to take third-place, and even looked like a possible contender to win this year’s Iditarod on more than one occasion.

After being disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod for having an iPod touch — a device capable of two-way communication and illegal under Iditarod rules — there was quite a bit of anticipation for Sass’s 2016 finish, especially as he began to pull ahead of the pack.

Sass’s team looked strong throughout much of the race. The 2015 Yukon Quest winner and 2012 Iditarod Rookie of the Year was first into the Ophir checkpoint, where he took his mandatory 24-hour break.

His team continued to look strong as he pulled into Nulato first, nearly seven hours ahead of Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey.

Nulato resident holds sign waiting arrival of Brent Sass - David Poyzer

Nulato resident holds sign waiting arrival of Brent Sass – David Poyzer

The Iditarod turned into a race between Sass and the Seaveys as all three reached the Bering Sea coast.

He maintained a team of 13 dogs all the way to White Mountain — winner Dallas Seavey had only nine dogs when he pulled into the same checkpoint.

But that’s where Sass’s team made their own decision to stop, something that might not have happened if Sass’s team had still included his former lead dog, Basin.

Sass was emotional Tuesday evening after pulling into Nome under a blanket of northern lights. He held back tears as he spoke to reporters about the dog.

“There were a lot of times when I was like, ‘If i just had Basin…’ You know,” said Sass. “He was like a dog that rallied the whole team. I feel like my whole season would’ve been different had I not lost him.”

Basin, the 5-year-old dog that led his team to the 2015 Yukon Quest championship, died unexpectedly while on a training run in January, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Sass pulled himself out of the Kuskokwim 300 following the loss.

After finishing the Iditarod, he was quick to give credit to current team, and lead dog, Celia.

“All the other dogs stepped it up, especially Celia,” he said. “She led the entire Yukon Quest and led pretty much every mile of this.”

Strategy on the Trail

Sass was one of the mushers who seemed to favor camping between checkpoints, avoiding media and attempting to get more sleep. It was a strategy also used by the Seaveys and Aliy Zirkle. He stopped at only five of the 21 checkpoints: Ophir, Nulato, Unalakleet, Koyuk and White Mountain.

He admitted to running his dogs a bit too much during the daytime midway through the race. As a result, he changed strategy and began making longer night runs into Unalakleet and Koyuk. The strategy seemed to pay off — he pulled into Unalakleet first, earning $3,500 in gold nuggets.

brent sass in unalakleet

He also reached Koyuk first, but the long night run across the sea ice in blistering cold wind seemed to affect his team.

“When we got to Koyuk, things started, ya know, to slow down,” he recalled at the finish line in Nome. “We had just did a 108-mile run across the sea ice in really high winds. They came into there looking great, but then we got there and rested. And an hour into it, Dallas and Mitch came blowing through.”

It was at that point Sass was forced to make a decision.

“Am I gonna stay in this race? Am I gonna continue racing or am I gonna concede and basically not do it,” he said. “I had faith and I came to the game to play it. And the dogs at that point were still playing.”

As he waited in Koyuk, Dallas and Mitch Seavey pulled through, electing to camp halfway to the next checkpoint of Elim. Sass rested nearly three hours before making chase.

“We did a real good job of keeping a decent pace,” he said. “I went by Mitch and he got up and took off a little while after. And I went by Dallas and he got up and took off. I knew then that, wow, we’re competing.”

He stopped briefly in Elim to pick up straw before heading to White Mountain.

“I knew that that was too short of a rest in Koyuk,” he recalled.

brent sass into white mountain

Brent Sass checks into White Mountain – Megan Edge

The Seaveys pulled past Sass on the way into White Mountain. At that point, it looked like Sass was destined to finish third at the very least. But as he tried to leave following his mandatory 8-hour break, his dogs refused.

“They ate like alligators in White Mountain, but I could see there was an edge taken off of them,” he said. “It wasn’t until we got out there and I had 10 of ’em lookin’ at me, saying ‘Nope, we need to rest more.'”

His 8-hour rest turned into a 26-hour rest at White Mountain. He finally left around 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, arriving in Nome at 11:08 p.m.

“I bent the trust as far as you can,” Sass said of his team.

Regardless of his final standing, he had the look of a proud parent as he spoke about his current team in Nome.

“Look at this, there’s nine beautiful dogs here and we just finished in top 20 of the Iditarod,” he said smiling under the Burled Arch.

For his 20th-place finish, Sass will take home $13,575, in addition to his $3,500 prize for arriving first to Unalakleet.

Latest Stories

  • Politics

    Initiative to regulate bathrooms likely to appear on ballot

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 16:45

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A new rule on sex, gender, and bathrooms looks likely to go before Anchorage voters next spring. Alaska Public Media reports a release by the Alaska Family Action Council states supporters submitted nearly 8,500 signatures Thursday to the municipal Clerk’s Office, backing a measure that seeks to regulate bathrooms, locker rooms […]

  • Politics

    Trump tweets frustration with Republicans

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 16:36

    WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is expressing his frustration with Republicans, saying they “do very little to protect their President.” In a tweet Sunday, Trump says this happens even with “some that were carried over the line on my back.” It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on […]

  • Dramatic video shows Starbucks customer fighting off armed robber

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 16:26

    FRESNO, Calif. — Police in Fresno, California, have released dramatic surveillance footage showing a customer stepping in to prevent an armed robbery at a Starbucks. Authorities said the video shows a hero taking down a man who will soon face many felony charges, CBS affiliate KGPE-TV in Fresno reports. Cregg Jerri, 58, was enjoying his […]

  • Parents arrested for giving newborn daughter meth, heroin, morphine, police say

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 16:03

    SPANISH FORK, Utah — Police said a mother and father were arrested after they gave their newborn daughter drugs on the day she was born, CBS affiliate KUTV in Salt Lake City reports. Colby Glen Wilde, 29, and 26-year-old Lacey Dawn Christenson face drug distribution and child endangerment charges, authorities said. “They administered the drug […]

  • Lifestyle

    John Heard, ‘Home Alone’ actor, dies at 71

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 12:01

    John Heard, the actor best known for his roles in “Home Alone” and “The Sopranos,” has died, the Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed to CBS News. He was 71. Early reports from TMZ said Heard was found dead in his hotel room in Palo Alto, California. Earlier this week, representatives for Heard told TMZ the […]

  • Princes William, Harry remember devastating last call with Princess Diana

    by CBS News on Jul 23, 11:53

    LONDON — It was a typical phone call between two boys playing and their mother, who was on vacation in France. It was brief – the boys wanted to get back to playing with their cousins, not spend time on the phone chatting. The brevity of that 1997 call troubles Prince William and Prince Harry […]

  • Politics

    Alaska Legislature to meet Thursday on construction budget

    by Associated Press on Jul 23, 11:37

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – The Alaska Legislature is coming back to the state Capitol in Juneau. The Juneau Empire reports the Legislature will convene Thursday for what is expected to be a one-day special session to pass the state’s capital construction budget. The capital budget funds road construction and building projects across Alaska, and most […]

  • News

    1 dead in head-on Parks Highway crash

    by KTVA Web Staff on Jul 23, 11:04

    A Fairbanks man is dead after a head-on collision in Healy. Alaska State Troopers responded to a two-vehicle head-on crash on the Parks Highway near mile post 254 in the Denali Borough south of Fairbanks. The call came in around 6:20 Saturday evening. The initial investigation indicates that 31-year-old Justin Yurong, of Fairbanks, was driving a […]