Ean Voigt, a 2018 graduate of Park Rapids Area High School, won the Semi Pro Factory 600 class Jan. 19-20 in the USXC Park Rapids Heartland 200 snowmobile race.
It was the 19-year-old's first career win as a semi-professional racer.
Voigt, a son of Jeff and Angie Voigt of Park Rapids, is currently a freshman at Minnesota State University Mankato, working toward a four-year degree in aviation.
His win on a 600-horsepower Arctic Cat sled followed years of involvement in the sport.
"I started racing 120s when I was 5," Ean recalled. "I raced 120s in KC Pro West circuit until I was 10. Then I got started in USCC, and I started racing an Arctic Cat 500 for that year. I think it was 2011 when USXC took over, and then I raced that, on the 500s still, until about two years ago. Now I'm on a 600."
Asked what appeals to him about cross-country racing, Voigt said, "I've always enjoyed riding snowmobiles, like my dad and his buddies and my buddies. There's no better feeling than passing somebody down a straightaway, wide open, when your sled slams down on the ice."
Voigt said last weekend's race felt good. "I have a little bit of an advantage, since I get to ride those trails," he said. "Over by Walker, I really don't ride those trails a whole lot. So, me and most other people were in the same boat, over there."
Breaking it down further, he said, "The first day, I rode pretty clean. I didn't ride as hard as I probably could have, but hard enough. It was going pretty good the second day, till I smashed into a tree. But I got back on her and kept going."
The sled didn't really hit the tree, he clarified. "It kind of rolled, and I hit the tree and, oh! It knocked the wind out of me."
He finished Saturday's lap in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 6.682 seconds, placing first in his class and lagging behind only 16 other racers overall.
On Sunday, he made his lap in 2 hours, 8 minutes and 45.168 seconds, placing third in his class by a time difference of just over two minutes. Only nine other racers did better on the day.
Voigt's combined time for both days was 4 hours, 16 minutes and 51.85 seconds, leading his next competitor by more than one minute. Only six racers made better times for both days combined.
He also placed fifth in the Pro Open category. He would have won in Semi Pro Improved and placed seventh in Pro Factory 600 if he had registered for those classes.
"It's always nice to get a win, especially in Park Rapids," said Voigt. "It's a long since I've been able to win there because it always seems like we have problems."
Snowmobile racing is fraught with setbacks. "I've never broken any bones yet," he said. "Knock on wood! We've wrecked a lot of (stuff), but I guess that's what you get with racing. Right?"
He said he plans to race in a few, but not all, of the upcoming races on this year's USXC circuit. "I don't have the time like I used to, especially being in Mankato," he said. "I don't have time to be home testing, working on my sleds all the time."
He isn't sure what race he will compete in next, he said, but "for sure, I'm hoping to make it to Naytahwaush" on March 2-3. He said he may also make it to the Bemidji race on April 12-13.
Voigt said he thinks his racing career "is already kind of on the down-wind," and though he doesn't expect it to end soon, it "won't be as hard-core as it has been."
Regarding his aviation studies, Voigt said, "I already got my private license before I came here (to MSUM), along with my seaplane rating. I'm working on my instrument rating right now."
He aims to obtain Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and CFI Instrument ratings and become a flight instructor. "Most people get their 1,000 hours and go right to the airline, but I don't know," he said.
Voigt said he feels thankful toward Craig Rossman, Garrett Johnson and his parents. He also gave credit to Joe Higgins, Butch De La Hunt and the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber for making the race happen.