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Alexandria's Kaylee O'Brien takes second in cross country snowmobile race

Kaylee O’Brien poses with her second-place plaque that she won at the USXC Seven Clans Casinos I-500 cross country snowmobile race in Thief River Falls on February 8. (Contributed)

Alexandria’s Kaylee O’Brien suffered a little frostbite on her face, but ask her if it was worth it and she doesn’t hesitate.

“Definitely,” she said.

That’s because O’Brien knows it comes with the territory when embarking on a cross country snowmobile race in 17 below zero degree temperatures. Those were the conditions that the 16-year-old junior in high school faced during the USXC Seven Clans Casinos I-500 snowmobile race based out of Thief River Falls on February 8.

O’Brien competed in the Junior Girls’ Division and finished second in what was the second cross country snowmobile race of her life. She raced her Ski-Doo MXZ 600 ACE across 176 miles, busting through those frigid conditions while averaging around 55 miles per hour over a course that was extremely rough because of the conditions.

“It was cold,” she said. “I have wind burn on my face and some frostbite. My back started to hurt. It was exhausting physically. When I was done, I was glad I was done. It felt good to get a second wind.

O’Brien’s strategy off the starting line was to get out fast and gain a lead on what she said were six or seven girls in her division. She did that and raced side-by-side for much of the race with the girl who ended up taking first.

“We just stayed together the whole time,” O’Brien said. “We knew we had a lot of miles and we basically just kind of went for a ride. We were back and forth where she would follow me and I would follow her. Then with about 20 miles left, we raced each other.”

O’Brien finished about 100 yards out of first place. She enjoys the cross country style of racing for the scenery and the way it allows the racers to compete while enjoying a pastime many of them grew up loving.

O’Brien said she has been on a sled from the time she was about 3 years old. Kaylee, the daughter of Alexandria’s Brad and Jill O’Brien, loved sharing that time on a snowmobile with friends and family growing up.

“I like the competitiveness of it,” O’Brien said of racing. “I just love to ride snowmobile and compete.”

The second-place finish in Thief River Falls has her excited about a few more upcoming races. O’Brien plans to compete in about three or four more this winter.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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