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French musher was leading Iditarod, but then his dogs quit

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Musher Nicolas Petit lost a huge lead in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Monday when his dog team refused to keep going after he yelled at one of the animals.

A dog named Joey had been fighting with another dog on the team and jumped it during a break on the way to the Bering Sea checkpoint of Koyuk.

“I yelled at Joey, and everybody heard the yelling, and that doesn’t happen,” Petit told the Iditarod Insider website. “And then they wouldn’t go anymore. Anywhere. So we camped here.”

Several mushers passed Petit’s team on the trail, erasing his five-hour lead in the race. Pete Kaiser of Alaska was the first musher into Koyuk, followed 11 minutes later by defending champion Joar Ulsom of Norway.

The checkpoint is 827 miles (1,330 kilometers) into the 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) race across Alaska.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a frequent critic of the race, didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Monday.

Petit said his dogs are well-fed and there’s no medical issue keeping them from getting up and running.

“It’s just a head thing,” he said. “We’ll see if one of these dog teams coming by will wake them up at all.”

For Petit, it’s another bad memory from the stretch between the Shaktoolik and Koyuk checkpoints.

He was in command of last year’s race when he got off trail during a blizzard and lost the lead. He wound up finishing second behind Ulsom.

“Something about right here, huh?” he mused.

The race started March 2 in Willow, just north of Anchorage. The course through the Alaska wilderness took mushers over two mountain ranges and the frozen Yukon River before they reached the treacherous Bering Sea coast.

The winner is expected to come off the sea ice and mush down Nome’s main street to the finish line sometime in the middle of the week.

Former head of USA Triathlon takes helm of Iditarod

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — As the new head of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Rob Urbach will have to overcome dwindling sponsorships, dog deaths, a recent dog-doping scandal and animal rights protests.

With all that drama, it seems fitting Urbach became hooked on the sport thanks to soap opera actress Susan Lucci.

Lucci, who starred on “All My Children,” and Urbach struck up a conversation on a 1999 flight to Anchorage, where she was taking part in the Iditarod’s ceremonial start and he was going skiing.

Urbach acknowledges the challenges for the Iditarod, but he says he’s faced significant tests in his previous roles, including as CEO of USA Triathlon.

He says there’s an opportunity to put out some fires for the Iditarod, while also protecting the race for the next 50 years.

Auburn gymnast walks down wedding aisle after serious injury

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FAIRHOPE, Ala. (AP) A gymnast who suffered a severe leg injury accomplished her goal of walking down the aisle at her wedding.

The Advocate reports Auburn University graduate Samantha Cerio shared photos on Instagram Monday of the ceremony in Fairhope.

The gymnast dislocated both knees and tore ligaments in both legs during a competition in April. After having surgery, she said she wanted to recover enough in time to walk down the aisle at the ceremony.

Cerio used crutches to cross the stage at her graduation in May. She earned a degree in aerospace engineering.

Cerio walked down the aisle free of crutches to marry fiance Trey Wood.