By Rob Potter
NORTH BRANCH Steve Steffens had a choice to make at the end of his sophomore year at Sullivan West High School in June 2007.
Either the North Branch resident would continue to play two sports which he really enjoyed, football and baseball, or focus on the sport of motocross.
Steffens, now an 18-year-old SW senior, chose motocross.
Last fall, he completed his second season of racing his Honda TRX 450R quad in two series District 34 Sports Committee and Metropolitan Sports Committee. After racing in the novice division in 2007, Steffens competed in the amateur division in 2008.
Despite missing six weeks of races after being injured in a rough crash during an event, Steffens placed first in the Quad B division of the Metropolitan Sports Committee and third in the Quad B division of the District 34 Sports Committee.
In that accident, Steffens suffered a concussion, a broken nose, a broken collarbone and needed 33 stitches to close up some cuts.
While he admitted to being a little nervous when he returned to racing after his injuries healed, Steffens likes the challenge of quad racing against other talented drivers. Steffens and his fellow drivers are very safety-conscious.
“Wearing protective gear is very important,” he said. “The gear includes my helmet, a Leatt neck brace, chest guard and knee pads.”
“It’s a very dangerous sport,” said Fred Steffens, who is Steve’s grandfather and chief mechanic for his quad.
But the younger Steffens has faith in his skills and safety gear. He also has the love and support of a special group of fans at the track.
“My whole family is behind me 100 percent,” he said.
In addition to grandfather Fred, those family members include sister Felicia Reichenbaugh, mother Tammy Reichenbaugh, stepfather Charlie Reichenbaugh, grandmother Peggy Steffens and uncle Dale Steffens.
Steve and Fred Steffens also appreciate the local businesses who sponsor No. 31 Steffens Racing.
“It’s a costly sport,” Fred said. “We really thank all of our local sponsors for their support.”
After competing two seasons of quad racing, the Steffens have made dozens of friends at the tracks were they have traveled to compete. Those tracks include Broome-Tioga Sports Center near Binghamton, Diamond Back in Modena, Englishtown, N.J., Hurricane Hills in Clifford, Pa., Southwoods Moto Cross in Monticello and Unadilla Valley Sports Center in New Berlin.
“Everyone at the tracks is friendly,” Fred Steffens said. “It’s like one big family.”
Fred said that after Steve’s accident last year, several of his fellow quad racers called later that day or the next day to ask how he was feeling.
Steve noted that he is friends with Phil Nicoletti of Cochecton, who is a professional motocross racer. Nicoletti offered Steffens advice about motocross racing and encouraged him to pursue the sport.
Jakob Ingham of Wyalusing, Pa. and Sullivan County residents Brad Houghtaling of Grahamsville and Angelo Musto of Roscoe are among the fellow racers whom Steve Steffens befriended while they were racing at area tracks in 2008.
With the calendar page recently turning to February, the Steffens are preparing for the 2009 season. Glenn Lewis of Bethel, who has performed engine work for another local racer, Andy Karadontes of Jeffersonville, will be fine tuning Steve’s quad engine for the upcoming season.
This season, Steve Steffens will be driving in the expert class. He is looking forward to the season, which begins with a District 34 event on April 11 at Hurricane Hills.
Although Steve devotes a great deal of time to quad racing, including lifting weights and running to stay in shape for the season, he is focused on his academics as well. He is on track to graduate with is SW classmates in June.
Right now, his career goal is to turn pro in the sport.
“It’s a big step and it will take a lot of work,” he said.
But Steve knows he has a large group of dedicated fans to encourage him as he pursues his dream.
“We all love Steve and support his racing career,” Fred Steffens said.