The scene at the “Singletrack Shootdown” Photo: Judy Geer
A week ago, we hosted a biathlon race at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center as part of our Oktoberfest celebrations. The event included a beginners’s pre-race shooting safety clinic and featured separate races for beginners and for experienced biathletes. Additionally, participants could chose to either compete running or mountain biking. The races consisted of 5 laps on woodsy single-track trails and had 4 shooting stages. Beginners shot prone (laying down) for all stages at the bigger standing-sized targets while experienced biathletes shot from both the prone and standing positions at the standard target sizes.
Craftsbury junior coach, Jeremy Nellis, and myself were the primary race organizers. Neither of us has a lot of biathlon race organizing experience. We didn’t know exactly what to expect. During the week leading up to the race, we fixed up the targets, marked out the course, and recruited a handful of volunteers to help out. Brand new events at the Outdoor Center rarely have a huge turnout the first year and most biathlon events in the United States have low participation. I had no idea how many people would show up, but I guessed there wouldn’t be many. The stack of 50 waviers and registration forms that I printed out looked wishfully large.
Imagine our surprise when 65 people lined up at the registration table on race morning!
The registration table, run by Carlie Geer, starts to get busy. Photo: Judy Geer
It was very exciting to have such a huge turnout for the event and it was also a little stressful. We had over 50 people in the day’s largest race (beginners’) and our range has only 10 targets. Things were going to be tight. Biathlon races require a huge number of volunteers compared to a normal ski race. On the shooting range you need people scoring the targets, backup scorers, target resetters, and timers (in case all shooting points are full and a time credit needs to be given). For a beginners’s race you need even more people for reloading magazines, assisting shooters when needed and most importantly making sure everything is operating safely.
Luckily the crowd was flexible and the volunteers and staff were up to the challenge. We had several volunteers signed up ahead of time, but many parents and spectators also stepped up on race day to help. After quick lessons about how to load magazines or record shooting scores, they went to work. In addition, many of the “expert” competitors who would be racing later in the morning jumped in to help out on their own initiative. They taught beginners during the shooting clinic and delayed their own race warm-up to assist on the range during the beginners’ race. We ran into several unanticipated problems during the day (ran out of safety pins for race numbers, had to move back start times, the bike course was too difficult, etc) but the event ran surprising smoothly and the atmosphere was relaxed. As impressive as it was to have so many racers, I was even more blown away by how helpful and understanding the crowd was. Our volunteers and staff for the day numbered almost 30. Many thanks to everyone for coming, competitors and volunteers alike!
I hope everybody had a great time. We learned a lot from this experience and plan to have more Craftsbury biathlon events in the coming year, so stay tuned.
Dick Dreissigacker instructs a group volunteers how to be score keepers on the range. Photo: Judy Geer
The first round of participants receive safety instruction at the beginners’ clinic. Photo: Jamie Chapman
The beginners’ clinic featured one-on-one instruction, talking each participant through all the steps of the shooting process. Photo: Jamie Chapman
Craftsbury junior skier Matthew Lawlor practices before the race. He is one of several young skiers in the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club that have been attending weekly shooting practices with Jeremy. Matthew went on to win the beginners’s running division, his first biathlon race. Photo: Jamie Chapman
Giving final instructions to racers at the starting line of the beginners race. Photo: Hannah Dreissigacker
Sheldon Miller and Andrea Carpentier are experts at smoothly running things from behind the scenes. Normally they can be found in the back office of the Outdoor Center but on race days, you will probably spot them directing timing near the finish line. Photo: Judy Geer
Lynn Jennings and Lauren Gillott keeping track of penalty loops. Photo: Judy Geer
The firing line. Photo: Jamie Chapman
Competitors in the beginners’ race being supervised by experienced biathlon coaches and athletes. Photo: Judy Geer
Shooters on the range during the expert race. Photo: Judy Geer
Mountain bike racers leaving the range and heading back onto the bike course. Photo: Judy Geer
The GRP rowers showed up en masse to race and help out. Phil Henson puts on a goofy face during a trip around the penalty loop. Photo: Judy Geer
The most exciting battle of the day was between siblings Jack and Callie Young, Craftsbury youth skiers. After matching each other’s performances on the range, the race came down to the final sprint, in which Callie barely edged Jack. Their competitive spirit matches any I have seen at any level. Photo: Judy Geer
Craftsbury youth and junior skiers hanging out and staying warm post race. Bonus points if you can identify the GRP ski racer face in the mix. Photo: Hannah Dressigacker