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Redington wins John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

John Beargrease champion Ryan Redington shares a moment with Archer while Rumba sniffs a snack. (Steve Kuchera / / 2
Ryan Redington nears the Jean Duluth road crossing on the John Beargrease trail shortly after 4 a.m. on Wednesday on his way to a first-place finish. (Steve Kuchera / / 2

Andrew Krueger

Musher Ryan Redington won his first John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon title this morning, crossing the finish line near Duluth at 5 a.m.

Redington, who is from Alaska and has ties to Northwestern Wisconsin, was the runner-up in last year's Beargrease. He led most of this year's race, building a lead of more than two hours by the time he reached the halfway point at Grand Portage -- and then maintaining that lead on the long run back down the North Shore.

It was a big change from 2017, when Redington also built a lead -- only to see himself passed in the race's final legs. A key difference this year: Redington left Grand Portage with 11 dogs in harness, compared to seven last year -- providing more speed and endurance in the second half of the 373-mile race.

Redington's victory breaks the hold on the Beargrease crown by two race icons from the Northland: Four-time winner Nathan Schroeder of Warba, and defending and three-time champion Ryan Anderson of Ray, who was running second to Redington in the late stages of this year's race. Schroeder and Anderson had combined to win every Beargrease that was held since 2010. The previous musher other than Anderson or Schroeder to win the race was Montana's Jason Barron in 2008 and 2009.

Redington left the final checkpoint north of Two Harbors just before 1 a.m. The last leg to the finish at Billy's Bar in Rice Lake, just north of Duluth, is 35 miles.

Redington is set to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska in March. He finished a career-best 14th in the Iditarod last year.

Five other marathon mushers remained in the race behind Redington as of early this morning, with teams expected to continue arriving at the finish line through the morning.