It may not have been the Olympics, but you couldn’t tell from the weather. Just like at Whistler Olympic Park last year, the weather for the US Biathlon Nationals at Mt. Itasca, MN had a little bit of everything, with some significant rain during the Sprint competitions on Thursday, gorgeous sunshine with firm snow during Saturday’s Pursuit, and light drizzle with heavy overcast for the Mass Start on Sunday.
The athletes had good attitudes however, and anyone who was asked about the rain and drizzle responded in generally the same way—“it is what it is”, or “you just deal with it”—and with a smile. The volunteers had similarly sunny attitudes, and after the flower ceremony for Saturday’s Pursuit was complete, the organizers treated them to their own “sprint” race. Coaches for several of the participating teams stayed around to show the volunteers just what it is like to shoot a biathlon rifle, and how difficult it is to hit the target after skiing a lap with your heart racing. The volunteers greatly appreciated this opportunity and came away with newfound respect for the challenges the athletes face.
12.5km/15km Mass Start
Wynn Roberts (USBA), who won Saturday’s Pursuit ended the Mass Start in 4th place after missing three shots in the last standing. Russell Currier (MWSC) was the first man to leave the range after the final standing round, and had already completed his one penalty loop by the time Roberts and Mark Johnson (Mt. Itasca Biathlon) began their penalty laps with Bill Bowler (USBA) right on their heels. Currier would win by a 52.8 second margin.
Johnson had stellar shooting overall with only one miss in each of the standing rounds, and was well on his way to second place by the time Roberts finished his three trips around the loop. Bowler, who also missed one in the final standing followed Johnson to third place. All the more remarkable for Johnson is the fact that he has been racing cross-country all season, and only picked up the rifle again this past week for the Nationals. He admitted that his skiing was not what it could have been Sunday, but his shooting was clearly the deciding factor in his trip to the podium. Had the course been a few hundred meters longer Bowler might have had a chance to unseat Johnson. As it was he was only three seconds behind the Grand Rapids, MN native and would have to make do with third. Roberts’ three
Roberts is off to California this coming week to provide some elite-level talent for the fledgling 4th Annual Mammoth Winter Biathlon. To finish the season he will head to Whistler for the North American Biathlon Championships.
For the women, Tracy Barnes (Durango Biathlon) was the best shooter with three misses overall, which was good enough for third place. She shot clean in the second prone and first standing stages, while Annalies Cook (USBA + Team Cook) skied her way to the top of the podium, 1:09.5 over the second place finisher, Susan Dunklee (Craftsbury GRP). An impressive performance considering Cook’s seven total misses in the last three shooting stages. Dunklee distributed 6 total misses over the four shooting stages going 1-2-1-2, while Lanny Barnes (Durango Biathlon) suffered 6 misses as well and managed fourth place about 2-1/2 minutes behind her sister.
Sean Kato (Methow Valley Biathlon) swept the Sprint, Pursuit, and the Master Men’s 12.5km Mass Start, finishing 2:07.7 ahead of second place finisher Frank Gangi (National Guard). Wayne Peterson (J Bar) took third, ten seconds behind Gangi.
There was not an entrant for the Mass Start in the Master Women’s class.
Carly Wynn (Saratoga Biathlon) took the Youth Women’s 7.5km Mass Start title with a huge 4:17.4 gap between her and second place finisher Kelly Kjorlien (Mt. Itasca Biathlon). Tara Geraghty-Moats (Craftsbury GRP), who won the Sprint on Thursday suffered a very disappointing day at the range shooting 4-2-5-5 and ended up 13 seconds behind Kjorlien.
In news related to Methow Valley, many were surprised to learn this weekend that the public High School there actually has a biathlon range at the school! This has to be a first in the U.S., and it is exciting to imagine a pipeline of Olympic-caliber biathletes starting to flow from the Pacific Northwest. Great credit has to be given to all the biathlon enthusiasts in and around Winthrop for what must surely have been a herculean effort to see this accomplished.
Corrine Malcolm (Hayward, WI) had almost nine minutes to wait at the finish line for second place finisher Andrea Mayo (MWSC) in the Jr. Women’s 1.5km event, having cleaned both prone stages while leaving two targets up on each of the standing rounds.
Raleigh Goessling (MWSC) didn’t have to wait quite as long for the second place athlete in the Jr. Men’s 15km, beating Ethan Dreissigacker (EABC/Crafttsbury) by 4:36.1. Goessling had a finishing time of 51:53.6, which would have landed him the 5th place spot behind Wynn Roberts had he been competing in the Men’s division. Keep an eye on Goessling in the next few years. Goessling clearly was dominant out on the skis, since he actually had one more penalty (5) than Dreissigacker.
Girls & Boys
Anna Kubek (Mt. Itasca Biathlon) was able to ski to a time of 34:02.8 with 6 penalties in the Girl’s 7.5km. Teammate Solveig Viren missed three more shots and wound up 2:15.9 behind her, but almost seven minutes ahead of third-place finisher Elise Putnam (Methow Valley Biathlon) who shot 3-1-3-3.
The Boy’s 10km event had the largest group with 17 starters, and once again Sean Doherty (Vermont Collegiate Biathlon) stood on top of the podium. He was able to overcome 9 missed shots to put 1:15.1 between him and second place Nick Proell (Nisswa / NW). Doherty completed the race in 36:36.6. Third place was taken by Jake Prince (Alaska Biathlon) who missed two shots in every stage and ended 2:37.9 behind Doherty.