As the only senior American woman at Under-26 Open European Championships in Ridnaun, Italy, Susan Dunklee didn’t get the chance to start a relay on Thursday.
“I’m disappointed, but I don’t want to make a big deal out of it,” she told FasterSkier.
But while sitting on the sidelines might not have seemed as fun as racing, a couple of her teammates had even more frustrating days.
The American men’s relay team, after a promising start by Leif Nordgren who had the fastest finishing-loop time of all the leadoff skiers, was stymied by 20 spare rounds and eight penalty loops, the poorest shooting in the field.
After Nordgren skied two penalty loops in the first shooting stage, he managed not to lose any more time, thanks in part to his furious finishing effort. He left the team in eighth, a minute and 20 seconds behind the leaders.
But Russell Currier, the next racer, skied four penalty loops and dropped the team to 13th. Wynn Roberts avoided the loop but was only able to move the team up to tenth, despite two very first second and third loops; and Bill Bowler finished things off by skiing two more penalty loops and dropping the team back to 13th.
The disappointment only continued in the junior mixed relay, where the Americans were pulled from the race – even though they didn’t get lapped.
“In the end we got pulled from the race for being ‘lapped’, but we never actually got lapped,” Ethan Dreissigacker said. “Apparently IBU rules state that if you haven’t left the range after your last shooting before the winner finishes you get pulled. So we were all a bit frustrated about that.”
Dreissigacker skied a strong third leg of the mixed relay. After Grace Boutot scrambled the team to ninth place and then Corrine Malcolm had an up-and-down performance, cleaning the prone stage with no extra rounds but then hitting the penalty loop three times in standing and leaving the team in eleventh, the towering Dreissigacker – a natural shooter who also happens to be a former junior national champion in skiing – took over.
He cleaned both stages with no spare rounds and had among the fastest shooting times on the day.
“Things went pretty well today for me,” he said. “My shooting was great. I think being over here getting a lot of racing in has really helped my shooting- I have been shooting very well in practice lately as well. I still wasn’t happy with my skiing though. Part of it may be that I haven’t fully gotten used to the altitude here yet, but I’m not sure.”
Dreissigacker moved the team up to tenth and tagged off to Raleigh Goessling, who had comparable to better results than his teammate at the recent Junior World Championships. But today it was not to be – Goessling used all three spare rounds in prone and was still stuck skiing around the penalty loop three times.
“I wish I knew what went wrong in the first shooting, then I could fix it,” he told FasterSkier in an e-mail. “Prone has been a struggle lately. The bottom line is there no excuse for penalties in a relay.
“My frustration level for the day was put through the roof when I was pulled after standing,” he continued. “I was skiing hard to avoid getting lapped, and I never saw the Russian, so I though I was in the clear. I have a sprint and pursuit this weekend to get some redemption.”
Canada had a better day, finishing tenth in both the men’s and women’s relays. In the men’s relay, the Canucks used twelve spare rounds to hit the penalty loop just once, fairly standard shooting compared to the rest of the field. Patrick Cote skied an excellent first leg, handing off to Nathan Smith in sixth place. Smith then moved the team up to fourth. Joel Pacas dropped the team to eleventh, but anchor Tyson Smith shot clean with no spare rounds to move up to tenth by the finish.
The women had an even effort, placing eighth at each handoff until Emma Lodge – a junior racing up to fill the relay team – finished off in tenth place. The team hit the penalty loop just once, but used 13 spare rounds, one more than the men, to do it.
“I was a little disappointed with how many spares I had to use but was happy with my skiing,” leadoff skier Rosanna Crawford told FasterSkier. “Shorter races are my strong point, so I really look forward to relays. This had to be one of the more fun races I have done this year, where I was in a pack and with in distance of the top 5. Overall we had a good team race. Emma did well for racing against the senior women and it will be exciting to see what she can do in the future.”