JOSEPH — When Josi Thyr last competed in the Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race, she placed second.
That was in 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic.
Three years off from the race certainly didn’t seem to impact her, as she easily won the 2023 edition of the race, ending a run of close calls and near-misses.
Thyr completed the 200-mile course with the best time in eight years at 31 hours, 5 minutes, winning by 90 minutes over race runner-up Jed Stephensen.
When she last competed in 2020, she finished just 11 minutes behind winner Gabe Dunham. The race was canceled in 2021, and Thyr did not take part in the restart a year ago.
The musher from Olney, Montana, was the fifth one to leave the starting line just after noon Jan. 19. It didn’t take her long to move up. She was in second by the time the teams reached Ollokot for the first time and moved into the lead in the overnight hours Jan, 19 and 20. She held a lead of just nine minutes when she entered the Ollokot layover just before 4 a.m., but grew her lead to nearly an hour by her return to Ollokot just before noon Jan. 20. She took a longer stop at the checkpoint than Stephensen, and left just 15 minutes ahead of her nearest competitor.
But she put the race out of reach in the afternoon and evening hours. By the return to Salt Creek, the final checkpoint, her lead had grown substantially, and she finished the race 13 minutes before Stephensen reached Salt Creek.
The win was the latest in a run of strong finishes for the Eagle Cap Extreme veteran, who has now competed in the race seven times since 2013. She now has six top-five finishes to her name, and finished in the top three for a fourth time, including a pair of third-place finishes in 2013 and 2014.
Her time was the best since 2015, when two mushers, winner Brett Bruggeman and runner-up Jessie Royer, both finished the Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier in fewer than 31 hours (30:03 and 30:40, respectively).
Last year’s champion, Clayton Perry, came in third in a time of 34:43, a time that was close to four hours faster than his winning time from a year ago.
The 100-mile race was won by Nicole Lombardi for the second year in a row, who came out on top of a field of nine, three times larger than the 2022 race. Lombardi, of Lincoln, Montana, finished the race in 18 hours, 16 minutes, just nine minutes off her winning time from a year ago.
She didn’t have the margin of victory of 2022, when she won by more than four hours, but still finished comfortably ahead of the field, coming in more than an hour ahead of Jesika Reimer. Reimer, the champion of the 2022 two-day, 31-mile race, finished second in a time of 19:24.
Lombardi took the lead by the time the mushers reached Ollokot, and extended it by the time teams returned to Ollokot.
Bino Fowler, a veteran of the Eagle Cap Extreme, and three-time winner of the 100-mile race, placed third in a time of 20:30.
The two-day, 31-mile-a-day race was taken by Charlotte Sause. The Corbett resident trailed her competitor, David Bush of Bend, by three minutes after the first day. The second time they took to the 31-mile course, she pulled ahead and won the second day by 19 minutes. She posted a final time of 8:04, besting Bush by 16 minutes.
It is the first time in the history of the Eagle Cap Extreme that all the races have been won by women.