In any qualifying series, it all comes down to the last day of racing – when bubble athletes make or break it, when a single amazing performance can catapult a racer upwards in the standings, when men and women go home either elated or heartbroken.
In Anchorage, Alaska, Friday was that day for junior biathletes as the World Youth/Junior Championships Team Trials concluded with a final set of sprints.
One young biathlete did what he dreamed of, and raced to victory despite finishing fifth and sixth in the first two youth races of the series. Over two shooting stages and 7.5 k, Jacob Dalberg of National Guard Biathlon missed only two shots, tying him for the best shooting in the field. That gave him a 35-second win over Sam Dougherty of Alaska Biathlon, who had taken the sprint victory on Wednesday.
But while Dalberg might have expected that his win would hand him a ticket to the World Youth/Junior Biathlon Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland, it didn’t come to pass. Because Sean Doherty of Saratoga Biathlon had prequalified for the event based on his performance at senior biathlon trials, only three youth competitors from could be selected – and based on best two of three percent back calculations, Dalberg didn’t make the cut.
Instead, Dougherty, Nick Proell of Minnesota Biathlon and Jake Prince of Alaska Biathlon got the nod. The three had filled the podium in each of the previous races, and Prince was only three seconds behind Dougherty on Friday.
In the junior men’s 10 k sprint, Ethan Dreissigacker of Vermont Biathlon and the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club picked up his second sprint victory of the series when he collected only two penalties, the least of any man in the field. Even though he had the best shooting, Dreissigacker only edged Casey Smith of Methow Valley biathlon – who had dominated in Thursday’s pursuit – by eight seconds.
Raleigh Goessling of the Maine Winter Sports Center may have had the wildest ride of the day. The four-time World Youth/Junior Championships competitor had a great start to his sprint by cleaning the prone stage. He then missed every shot of his standing stage, skied five penalty loops, and slipped to third in the final standings.
But Goessling was rewarded for his performances over the week, including a second-place finish in yesterday’s pursuit, with a discretionary spot on the Championships team, joining Dreissigacker and Smith. A fourth team member was not named because the U.S. Biathlon Association requires all the qualifying athletes to have achieved 99% in the percent back calculations, and only Dreissigacker and Smith had done so, hence Goessling’s discretionary selection.
A Vermont athlete, Tara Geraghty-Moats, also repeated her sprint victory in the youth women’s 6 k spring. Dreissigacker’s teammate at both Vermont biathlon and Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club, Geraghty-Moats missed more shots than any of the other youth women, but despite her six penalties narrowly beat out Melissa Manning of the Maine Winter Sports Center for the win. Mikaela Paluszek of Vermont Academy finished third, a minute behind Manning.
The trio joined Anna Kubek of Mount Itasca, who had prequalified, as the U.S. team to Finland.
Finally, in the junior women’s 6 k sprint, Amanda Del Frate of Alaska Biathlon and Alaska Nordic Racing picked up her first win of the series, missing only one of ten shots. Her twin sister Kimberly, who had won the first two competitions, placed second with four penalties, and Kelly Kjorlien of Mount Itasca third with one penalty.
Because Kimberly Del Frate had won the first two races by such large margins, no other athletes besides the twins were able to achieve the 99% in the percent back calculations. Kjorlien, however, who had represented the U.S. with great success as a youth last year, was named as a discretionary pick.