Fresh off of World Championships appearances in Ruhpolding, Germany, U.S. national team members Leif Nordgren and Annelies Cook won the 10 and 7.5 k sprints at U.S. Biathlon Championships in West Yellowstone, Montana, on Thursday.
While most of the rest of the World Championships team continued on to Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, for the final weekend of World Cup racing, Cook and Nordgren headed home for a different kind of racing – which Nordgren said was actually nice.
“There was a great atmosphere today,” he wrote in an e-mail to FasterSkier. “I heard over a 100 racers participated, which kind of blew me away. For sure I wasn’t expecting that many, but they all looked happy to be here and it looked like they were having some fun too!
“It was cool to go from Ruhpolding to here,” he continued. “In some ways it’s nice just to go out and have some fun during your race, without having 30,000 people screaming at you.”
The biathletes – who hailed from at least 13 states and competed in categories ranging from boys and girls up to senior veterans – were greeted by plenty of snow, despite rain last night, and calm conditions on the range.
In the women’s race, Cook held off fellow national team members Laura Spector and Corrine Malcolm by shooting well, earning just one penalty to their three. She picked up a 1:24 victory over Spector, with Malcolm another 15 seconds behind.
Cook could not be reached for comment.
In the men’s race, Nordgren won by a minute and three seconds over Mark Johnson, but the penalties were reversed: Nordgren had three, and Johnson one. Despite earning his first senior national title, Nordgren said there was plenty to improve on in his race.
“For me the race wasn’t super great,” he admitted. “Three penalties in shooting was about two too much for today. It was a perfect day for shooting so there’s no excuse. Skiing felt surprisingly well for having traveled so much in the last few days. It was kind of a shock to come up to this altitude and only train for a day before racing, but I took it easy skiing and it went pretty well.”
Michael Gibson of Vermont Collegiate Biathlon placed third, roughly three and a half minutes behind Nordgren.
Adaptive biathlon races were also held, with Sarah Edwards winning the women’s crown and Eric Frazier and Omar Bermejo winning the men’s sit-ski and standing divisions, respectively.
Racing continues Friday for the adaptive skiers and Saturday for the able-bodied racers.