Pete Kaiser won the 41st running of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race in January. For the fifth time in six years, the Bethel local was crowned champion of what is called the toughest mid-distance mushing race in the world. Pete maintained a solid lead for the last leg of the race, so it was not a surprise when he pulled into the finish chute with his nine-dog team. Pete works for the Lynden family of companies, who are long-time sponsors of his racing career and Kaiser Racing Kennels in Bethel. At the finish line he was surrounded by family, friends and fans. "Lynden companies proudly sponsor Pete each year and his dedication and hard work are a true carryover from the job to the trail," says Knik President Dan Hall. Though the K300 is always competitive, Kaiser said that the field of elite mushers this year was especially fierce. "Dog teams are getting better and better and so are the drivers." Pete will be competing in the 2020 Iditarod which begins tomorrow, March 7, in Anchorage!
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Soldotna Knik employees Pete Hoogenboom and Aaron Verba were on their way to a paving job in Whittier recently when they came across a head-on accident on the Sterling Highway in Alaska. "It was still dark and the roads were icy," Pete says. "We were first on the scene."
The lone driver in one car was already deceased, but the other vehicle contained three passengers who were still alive. The car was badly damaged and there was a risk of an electrical or engine fire. Pete and Aaron used a chain to bend the door open and a reciprocating saw to get to the door latch. They got two of the passengers out and into Knik's warm pickup until emergency services arrived. The third passenger in the car was badly injured with a broken back, hip, legs and feet. They wisely decided not to move her, but Pete stayed in the car with her, talking to her to keep her conscious for almost two hours until the life flight arrived to the remote area.
"Their actions are nothing short of heroic," says Knik Estimator Sean McKeown, but Pete is reluctant to accept the title of hero. "We did the right thing, the same that we hope someone would do for our loved ones in that situation," he says.
"Great people do great things," agrees Knik President Dan Hall. "I couldn't be prouder of these two men."
Knik Construction received both the Contractor of the Year and Distinguished Excellence Awards from the Alaska Department of Transportation Civil Rights Office. The awards recognize Knik’s commitment and dedication to the state’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program in the South Coast and Central Districts of Alaska. According to Norma Lucero of the Department of Transportation, this is the first time a prime contractor has won an award in two separate districts in the same year. Knik President Dan Hall is pictured above receiving the award from Dennis Good, Civil Rights Programs & Compliance Specialist. On Dan’s right are Alicia Siira, Associated General Contractor Executive Director, and John Mackinnon, Department of Transportation & Public Facilities Commissioner.
"We are pleased to be recognized for our efforts to work with disadvantaged business," Dan says.
A 7.0 magnitude earthquake rattled Anchorage at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 30. Shortly after Alaskans were back to their routine in part due to how quickly Knik Construction mobilized to fix the many roads that collapsed – especially the section of highway that carries traffic from the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage to the Anchorage airport.
Within an hour of the quake, Knik President Dan Hall placed a call to the Alaska Department of Transportation (AKDOT) offering to assist in the repair of eight breaks in essential travel that were deemed highest priority for transportation. "Within two hours of getting the go-ahead to start work on the northbound Minnesota Highway Exit at International Airport Road and a small stretch of road in the Soldotna area, Knik employees were ready to go to work," Dan explains. Just 72 hours after the earthquake and despite 4.0 aftershocks, Knik crews repaired the collapsed highway, paved it, striped it and opened it to the traveling public. "Knik’s ability to react in this timely and professional manner is a testament to the people that we employ. The credit goes to our team that jumped in to help," Dan says.
Paving in the winter isn’t ideal, but if done quickly, heat can be retained in the asphalt mix to allow for proper compaction and to give the surface treatment a chance for long-term success. "Knik crews worked alongside our subcontractor McKenna Brothers in the paving process and completed a very successful project," Dan says.
"As always, Lynden people have responded professionally and proactively and, once again, they make us all proud," says Chairman Jim Jansen. The quick response and excellent repair work drew national attention from CNN, USA Today and AP News and went ‘viral’ online. The before and after pictures became an internet sensation and sparked questions about their authenticity. The story was so unbelievable, that even the online urban legend site Snopes had to fact check it.
The story was also used as an example of Alaskans’ resilience in the face of Mother Nature and as a blueprint for other states to get highway projects done quickly by working together with multiple agencies.
Lynden offices weathered the 1964 Alaska earthquake and faced the Nov. 30 incident with the same can-do attitude. Jim Jansen shared the following from that day. "The wild ride that morning resulted in most of our employees going home to check on their families and homes. With road closures, parents getting kids from schools and people trying to get home, it was a traffic mess," he says. "By noon the airport was open and most of our people got to their homes and found the damage was cosmetic with fallen ceiling tiles, tables and pictures on the floor and broken glass. Some had water lines leaking and a few gas leaks. By afternoon, Anchorage businesses, including Lynden, began to function and the emotion and fear subsided." The Lynden facilities, including marine facilities in Anchorage, Kenai, Whittier, Cordova and Valdez, all fared well and were structurally operational.
Knik is continuing its AKDOT work into the new year to repair highway road failures in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.
Knik Construction received letters and drawings from the kindergarten class of Campbell STEM Elementary in Anchorage for the quick repair of essential roads. Each student wrote a thank you and created construction-related artwork. The notes were presented to Knik as part of the school’s Day of Caring.
Knik Construction's Pete Kaiser won his fourth consecutive Kuskokwim 300 title Jan. 21 in Bethel, AK. Joar Leifseth Ulsom arrived in second place with Jeff King following in third. With the victory, Pete did what no other musher has done in 39 years. While Jeff King has won three straight races on two occasions, Pete's four straight Kuskokwim victories earn him a spot in the history books. He also eclipses Mitch Seavey on the career victories list, trailing only Jeff King.
This year's race took a new route. Teams faced rough ice over winding tundra trails, frozen creeks and wide open lakes. According to Pete, it was a struggle to get traction on the 140-mile route.
"When it's icy, the dogs have to focus so much more on each step," he says. "It's mentally taxing and entirely different from a snow-covered trail where they can zone out and move along at an easy clip. Overall it was a challenging race for them and for me."
Pete and his team are sponsored by Knik Construction and Bering Marine Corporation each year. For the first time in six years, Pete trained in Bethel. The region finally received enough snow to support the demanding regimen Pete and his dogs go through each year to prepare for the Kuskokwim race and the annual Iditarod. It's also where Pete lives and works.
"We live out here and train out here, so we're a little more comfortable than most with the Kusko, but it was still one of the toughest, if not the toughest, races I've ever done," he says.
Pete is now focused on preparing for the Iditarod which begins March 3 in Anchorage.
Elliott Anderson, Project Engineer for Knik at the Red Dog Mine Airport, is a recent graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). He and his former classmates recently participated in an annual Steel Bridge competition organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The contest is designed to foster excellence and ingenuity among civil engineering students across the nation and requires groups to create a bid document for a bridge complete with design and manufacturing specifications. Supported by Knik Construction, Elliott's group traveled to Idaho this spring to compete at the regionals and on to Oregon for the national competition. "Our UAF team placed tenth out of 127 schools from seven countries," Elliott says. "We appreciate Knik's generous sponsorship of our team." The UAF team is pictured above with Elliott at far right.
Lynden’s Peter Kaiser made it a "3-Pete" win in the 2017 Kusko 300 in February and placed in the top 10 in this year’s Iditarod in March. Pete, who has worked for Bering Marine Corporation and now Knik Construction in Bethel, AK for 10 years, won the Kusko 300 for the third consecutive year, beating his 2016 time by almost 30 minutes. Pete and his 9 dogs crossed the 300 finish line with a time of 40 hours, 7 minutes and 54 seconds.
In his eighth outing as an Iditarod competitor, Pete placed ninth in the fastest-ever Iditarod. First-place finisher Mitch Seavey crushed the Iditarod speed record, finishing in 8 days, 3 hours and 40 minutes. The previous record, set last year by Seavey’s 30-year-old son, Dallas, was 8 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes.
This year, mushers traveled an unusual route that started in Fairbanks, rather than Willow, due to low snow on key stretches of the trail. The 2017 Iditarod is officially 979 miles, although that includes 11 mile sat the ceremonial start from Downtown Anchorage to Campbell Airstrip.
Bering Marine Corporation and Knik Construction support Pete and Kaiser Kennels each year. "Pete is not only a great employee for our companies, but his passion and dedication in his work shows in his mushing as well. We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to more races next year," says Dan Hall, Knik Construction Vice President.
"I am grateful for Lynden’s ongoing support," Pete says. "Our success is dependent on our sponsors and the flexibility of my employer. This year you had to have a flawless race to keep up with the fast teams. I had a few sick dogs with injuries along the way but, as always, I’m just happy to be competing."