Fourth-grader shares joys of racing with classmates
By Jane Myhra
The excitement of snowmobile racing came to life as Sawyer Griffin introduced his fourth-grade classmates to his favorite sport.
On Wednesday, Feb. 10, Sawyer and his parents, Travis and Julie Griffin, brought eight snowmobiles to Manawa Elementary School.
“We went to the Snodeo every year and then our kids wanted to race,” Travis said.
The Griffins purchased a Kitty Kat snowmobile, which is small enough for children to drive. Sawyer competed in a late season race and is now in his fourth full season. He competes in about 10 events per year and has several sleds so he can enter more races.
“When you’re a driver and you really love the sport, you want to race as much as you can,” said Dave Sarna, race director for the Manawa Snodeo on Feb. 20-21. “Sawyer is a very competitive racer.”
“What I like best is that I get to go fast,” Sawyer said. “It’s fun. I get to meet new friends, get tall trophies and see snowmobiles you have never seen before.”
According to Sawyer, the best part is, “If you win the final, you get to take the checkered flag around the track.”
Sawyer began racing in the Kitty Kat division and now competes in various divisions. He has won the youth world championships the past two years. This year, at age 10, he will be allowed to compete on a full-size sled for the first time.
According to Sarna, youth compete counterclockwise on a small oval track. Smooth, glare ice is the safest surface. The snowmobiles are converted to ice racing with sharp, short skis in front and spiked ice pick treads.
To check the sharpness of the skis, Sarna runs his thumb nail across the edge. “If it cuts off your fingernail, it’s sharp enough,” he said.
The racers are required to wear safety equipment, such as a helmet, knee pads and a neck restraint, to help prevent injuries.
The Manawa Snodeo will host the WKSRA Kitty Kat National Championship on Sunday, Feb. 21, with about 60 youth competing on about 250 snowmobiles in over 14 different classes.
Prior to going outside to look at the snowmobile sleds, the fourth graders saw a video and listened to Sawyer and his father talk about racing on ice.
Several of Sawyer’s classmates commented on the experience.
“It is awesome that we have a racer in our school,” Maggie Tohm said. “I was pretty excited to see the snowmobiles.”
“I was truly amazed that you could start riding a snowmobile at the age of 3,” said Olivia Ogle. “I loved how they showed us how the snowmobiles sounded and how they looked.”
“It was cool looking at the sleds,” said Marilyn Klatt. “It seems like fun.”
“I had a fun time learning new things I hadn’t learned before,” Kaycee Schaefer said. “Now I want a Kitty Kat.”
“I thought it was cool that there is snowmobile racing in the summer,” said Kiera Elsner.
“Sawyer inspires people to snowmobile,” Cassi Kasper said.