The TKC spotlight was designed to shine a light on people of the Yukon Kuskokwim region who exhibit TKC’s values. TKC’s spotlight recognizes those who demonstrate leadership, respect for TKC villages’ culture or serve as a steward for our land.
Richie Diehl: ‘More than ready’ for the ‘Last Great Race’
“I’m more than ready,” Diehl said. “It’s time to do it.”
Diehl, who is signed up to run the 2013 Iditarod as a rookie, has only been on the competitive mushing scene for a few years, but he’s already established an impressive record. In January, Diehl finished the Kuskokwim 300—one of the premier mid-distance races in the world—in fourth place, finishing less than two hours behind then-reigning Iditarod champ John Baker and beating some of the most decorated mushers in history, including four-time Iditarod winners Lance Mackey and Martin Buser.
“It was pretty cool,” Diehl said of his K300 win. “I knew what my dogs were capable of doing. I think the coolest part for me was at four in the morning, when I was running from Kalskag to Tuluksak, and my team was really moving. We passed Aaron Burmeister, Ramey Smyth, and I ended up passing Lance on that run, too. It was great seeing how my dogs were performing compared to theirs.”
Fast finishes aren’t everything, though. Diehl still thinks the most significant accomplishment of his mushing career to date was in 2011, when he received the Kuskokwim 300 Humanitarian Award for the care he provides his team.
“That has been one of the biggest things I’ve achieved,” Diehl said.
And now he’s headed to the big dance: The most famous sled dog race in the world. Although 2013 will be Diehl’s first Iditarod, he’s feeling prepared for the 1,000-mile-plus race. He competed in last season’s inaugural Paul Johnson Memorial Norton Sound 450, which followed a 450-mile course that looped around Unalakleet and up to Nome, and he says he’s ready for the Last Great Race and its challenges, including harsh weather and sleep deprivation.
“Finishing is the big thing—finishing with as many dogs as I possibly can, and taking good care of them,” Diehl said. “My big goal, if things are going right, is I’d hope to be in the top 20.”
Diehl, 27, was born and raised in Aniak, where he lives today with his kennel of about three dozen dogs. He grew up around mushing but didn’t get into it seriously until a few years ago, after he graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation technology.
“Since then, I’ve done my own program and raced competitively,” Diehl said. While there are many mushers he looks up to, his greatest inspiration is his dad, who got him interested in mushing in the first place.
“He’s always been the guy I’ve looked up to,” Diehl said. “He’s always been there to help me with things. He might not have done mushing as seriously as I’ve taken it, but he’s always been by my side to help me and support me in what I’m doing.”
Diehl is also inspired by the support he’s received from TKC, which is sponsoring his Iditarod entry.
“It means a lot,” he said. “We’re really showing people in rural Alaska that we have a place in this sport. When we have the right support, we can come together with a competitive team.”
He also hopes his journey will inspire young TKC shareholders to pursue their own dreams.
“The biggest thing is: Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something,” Diehl said. “A lot of things are possible when you have the right people behind you.”