Zirkle maintains lead in Alaska's Iditarod race


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Aliy Zirkle (AL'-ee ZUR'kahl) is holding on to the lead in Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, leaving a checkpoint on Alaska's wind-scoured western coast almost an hour ahead of her closest rival.

The 44-year-old musher from Two Rivers, Alaska, left the Norton Sound village of Shaktoolik (shock-TOO'-lick) with 11 dogs at 3:51 a.m. Sunday for the 50-mile run to the next checkpoint at Koyuk (KOY'-yukk).

She was followed at 4:46 a.m. by four-time champion Jeff King and his 12-dog team.

Zirkle has come in second place in the last two years in the nearly 1,000-mile race to Nome, 221 miles west of Shaktoolik. She is seeking to become only the third woman to win the race, and the first woman to win since the late Susan Butcher in 1990.

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