With only a 1.2 k race loop and no penalty loop, the United States Biathlon Association (USBA) faced some major challenges in Canmore, Alberta, on the first day of senior trials racing on Tuesday.
The stakes were high: top finishers from the race series will be able to join Sara Studebaker, Tim Burke, Jeremy Teela, and Leif Nordgren at early-season World Cups in Europe. But the race organizers got creative and and ultimately pulled off a successful – if unorthodox – sprint race, assigning 23 seconds per
missed shot for women and 22 for men, based on the time it typically takes athletes to ski a penalty loop.
At the end of the day, athletes had to wait to see their results, since the order of finish didn’t take hits and misses into account. After the shooting scores were tallied and time penalties applied, Laura Spector had bested the women’s field by 36 seconds, with Canadian Scott Perras taking a 37-second victory over the rest of the men.
Spector had one of the fastest ski times of the day – her finish in 22:39 tied her with teammate Haley Johnson, and trailed only Canada’s Meagan Imrie. But it was Spector’s clean shooting that scored her the win over fellow USBA B-team member Susan Dunklee, who missed one shot in the standing stage. With two misses, Imrie finished third, and was the first Canadian.
The Canadian team was joining their American counterparts for a friendly competition, but there’s nothing on the line for the Canucks: their trials were held on rollerskis earlier this fall. So for Imrie, the victory over teammates Melanie Schultz and Zina Kocher, who finished eight and ninth, was only symbolic.
But for the Americans, every place and every second counted. After the podium was complete, Anneliese Cook finished fourth – the first non-national team member in the rankings. She was followed by Lanny Barnes and Haley Johnson, both members of the B-team, and then Tracy Barnes, who is also competing on her own. The women generally shot well, with Spector and both Barnes sisters shooting clean, and only Johnson struggling on the range; she missed one prone shot and two standing.
In the men’s race, Perras also used clean shooting to help him to a victory. He had the third-fastest ski time, behind the U.S. national team duo of Russell Currier and Lowell Bailey. But both Americans missed three targets, and finished second and third, respectively.
Patrick Cote of Canada shot clean and finished fourth. He was followed by Bill Bowler, an independent American biathlete, and Zach Hall, who is on the USBA’s B-team.
Racing was originally scheduled to continue on Wednesday, but USBA decided to hold off and postpone the next competition until Thursday, in hopes of Canmore receiving more snow.