Athlete of the Week: Steffen Booth, the Iron Dog’s youngest-ever rider
NOME, Alaska (KTUU) - A Nome-Beltz High School student sat amongst grizzled and whiskered men at an Iron Dog pro class safety expo meeting the Thursday prior to “The World’s Longest, Toughest Snowmobile Race.”
Though Steffen Booth, the race’s youngest-ever competitor at 16 years and 6 months old, may have stood out at the meeting, once the helmet is on and his thumb is on the throttle, he is where he belongs.
“I think Steffen has one heck of a future in front of him and he’s going to a do a lot of great things in this race,” said Tyler Huntington, a two-time Iron Dog champion who is riding in the expedition class this year.
There are pro class riders in this year’s Iron Dog who have been competing since before Booth was born, while owning sleds that outdate him. However, that won’t phase him.
“I’m not really that nervous,” Booth said ahead of his rookie run. “I mean there’s a lot of racers in here that have been doing this race for a long time, so they know a lot more than me.”
Born and raised in Nome — the halfway point along the Iron Dog Pro Class trail — Booth found quite the partner to run his rookie race with. Evan Booth, an Iron Dog champion, Hall of Famer and Steffen’s father, is coming out of retirement after nine years to sled across Western Alaska once again, this time with his son.
“Once Shane and Evan Barber did it last year, that was it,” said Evan Booth, referring to the previous youngest-ever racer. “Evan and Steffen talk so he would not stop bothering me about it, and Shane said it was a lot of fun.”
As an Iron Dog champion 13 years before Steffen was even born, Evan is always a competitor at heart, but those “dad instincts” will find their way through no matter what.
“I’m excited about the whole thing, I’m just more nervous about ... it’s a lot shoulder,” Evan Booth said. “Putting all this together, then shouldering the responsibility and making sure that he’s going to be safe and we’re not taking chances, and showing him all the right things to do.’
Though appearing to be a boy amongst men, Steffen may not be looked as such after what he aims to accomplish this week.
“He’s a young man, he’s learning a lot, he’s learning right now so he’s growing them roots and learning good habits,” Mike Morgan, a two-time Iron Dog champion and Team 10 racer said at the halfway point in Nome. “... They’re grinding hard, and they’re still in the race. It’s been a tough race, tough conditions. He’s got a bright future ahead of him, he’s in good hands with Evan.”
“I think it is awesome that he’s out there doing it with his dad and I hope it encourages more fathers to do it with their kids also,” Huntington added. “I know it encourages me to do it with my boys, so I love it.”
The Booths rolled into their hometown at 3:33 p.m. Monday in 17th place before tuning up their sleds and making a second half push on Wednesday with 1,500 miles of Alaska’s terrain remaining on the trail.
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