Rush City teen finds success in snowmobile racing

Hunter Leigland maneuvers his 2010 Sno Pro 500 Arctic Cat through a cross country racing course last winter in Wisconsin. On straight-aways, he can accelerate up to 85 mph, but speed alone does not win cross country races, he explained. Photos by Michelle Franzen

By Jon Tatting

Hunter Leigland didn’t let the lack of snow bring him down over the winter. He found plenty of the white stuff and success in his first snowmobile racing experience.

The Post Review recently caught up with the 15-year-old and his family in Rush City and how he did in his first cross country racing season. Last fall, he was selected by Team Arctic Cat to race in the ages 14-17 junior class for 2011-12.

“He did very well, and even with no or poor snow conditions our circuit had three really nice races,” said Hunter’s dad, Eric. “Hunter took first place in all three and finished the season first in points.”

Said his mother, Christine, “To my surprise he did very well. He did do four races even with the lack of snow. He really did have some great support from the school and teammates. He’s a happy kid with the (past) season.

Recalling his first race, it was definitely a learning experience, Hunter admitted.

For starters, Hunter along with his dad and younger brother Tucker entered the U.S. Cross Country (USCC) races at Detroit Lakes. However, they couldn’t hear the announcement about a change to the racing order above the roar of snowmobile engines in the pit area.

Hunter was a no show.

“I was all excited for Hunter’s race and mad when he didn’t show,” said Christine who watched the coverage via live Web stream.

“Luckily it was a two day race, and we learned to pay closer attention,” added Eric.

Hunter made up for it by participating in three races the second day of the event. Yet the course was “glare ice … with lots of corners. We were set up for cross country,” Dad explained.

Hunter really found his groove and finally some decent snow after changing gears and racing with Cor Powersports, a grassroots cross country race series in Wisconsin. On Feb. 4, he entered the circuit’s first round on a lake in Mercer, Wis.

“I was really nervous because I didn’t know any of the kids I was racing with or how good they were,” said Hunter.

Hunter shows the hardware he earned for winning three first places and points champion for his class in a Wisconsin-based racing circuit.

But his fears would melt away as he passed a few of his competitors who had troubles with the course’s first corner. “So I’m excited and they’re behind me,” he recalled.

Hunter took first in the race, which consisted of about 10 miles and two laps. But it was close as the next racer finished just 15 seconds later.

“I didn’t know I was first until after the race,” Hunter confessed.

Days later, he earned another first place plaque in round two — a lake race at Phillips. He and the boys then set off for Cable in northern Wisconsin where they got away from lake racing and welcomed the woods — the snow was 4 feet deep in places.

“It was the funnest course of the year,” said Hunter of the challenging elevation, corner drops and jumps he encountered from the third and final round in early March. “There were a lot of damages to sleds and crashes on that course.”

Hunter scored the hat trick and then some when he finished in first place for a third time while claiming the points champion for his age class in the circuit.

“It was really fun and a learning experience,” said Hunter who gives credit to friend Jeff Kaltenhauser for his help as a crew member. “I’m excited to race for and represent Arctic Cat.”

Yet he cannot forget that other things come first if he wants to continue snowmobile racing.

“We need to remember that Hunter did still maintain his B average, which was very important to me and was part of my requirements,” said Christine.

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