A select group of top U.S. biathletes and more than 60 juniors made the trek to the military base in Jericho, Vt., for the 2016 US Biathlon National Rollerski Championships and North American Rollerski Biathlon Championships last weekend, weathering hot and humid temperatures over two days of racing.
US Biathlon Chief of Sport Bernd Eisenbichler wrote in an email that he was pleased with the turnout at the Ethan Allen Firing Range, especially among the younger athletes. On Sunday, 15 men raced the elite mass start, and 10 women raced the women’s mass start. The rest of the field competed in pursuits, separated into various age categories for ages 14 and up.
While US Biathlon veteran A-team members Susan Dunklee, Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey notched wins, Eisenbichler noted a number of observations about their performances.
“Tim and Lowell showed a high level … and showed that they are overall well ahead of everybody else,” he wrote. “Shooting was challenging for them as well as for everybody else through the weather conditions, as when you stopped the whole body felt like [it was going] to explode…but both had also some very good stages!”
He added that Dunklee was skiing at a high level, but struggled on the range a bit in the sprint (with four penalties) because of the weather and a few adjustments she was working on.
“The mass start was better in that regard,” Eisenbichler wrote.
In terms of developing male skiers, he pointed out Jake Brown, a former Northern Michigan University skier who started biathlon this past June, and Paul Schommer, who picked up the sport two summers ago. In the mass start, Brown placed third and Schommer was fourth.
“They worked hard to get where they are right now,” Eisenbichler wrote. “Still a lot to work on, but on the right way.”
Max Durtschi and Alex Howe were sick leading up to the races, which affected their results, he added. Absent from Jericho were national-team members Leif Nordgren and Sean Doherty, who are in Europe for a seven-week camp. They’re currently in Östersund, Sweden, and will meet up with the rest of the team in Ruhpolding, Germany, on Aug. 22 for a three-week camp in Ruhpolding and Oberhof, Germany.
On the women’s side, Eisenbichler highlighted Clare Egan (second in the mass start and third in the sprint) and Joanne Reid (second in the sprint and third in the mass start).
“Joanne had very good shooting in the Sprint and both days [skiing] was solid and showed that she made very good progress in [biathlon],” he said of Reid, who’s entering her second year of biathlon. “With good focused work and more daily based coaching in the fall (she had to spend some periods back in Colorado for some studies in the spring), [she] will be on the right path for the start of the season.”
Several cross-country skiers came out as well, including Hallie Grossman, Liz Guiney and Kaitlynn Miller. “We hope that a few of them will pursue [biathlon] intensively in the future,” Eisenbichler said.