Editor’s Note: The ‘From The Pack’ features profiles about talented-and-intriguing junior and collegiate racers in the U.S. and beyond. While nordic sports are certainly not the largest, there are still thousands of great stories that most of us are not familiar with. We will be picking athletes out of this pack to write about; nominations for outstanding or interesting nordic skiers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “From The Pack.” We are looking for unique stories, not necessarily the fastest skiers. Nominations should include a brief explanation of why we should profile the athlete.
With an 18th-place finish in the 6 k sprint during the 2015 IBU World Youth Championships in Minsk, Belarus, Chloe Levins demonstrated she is a name to look out for in the years to come.
Levins has been skiing her entire life. Since her family moved to Rutland, Vt. when she was two months old, they have been heavily involved in the local cross country commuity. Her parents, Mary Ann Levins and Jim Levins, are a constant presence at Mountain Top Resort where her father is also a Toko Tech Team representative. Her mother, meanwhile, is the chair of the New England Bill Koch League and a race coordinator and volunteer at Mountain Top. In 2009 she received the John Caldwell award, New England Nordic Ski Association’s (NENSA) highest annual honor, for her commitment to skiing development in New England. Two of her older siblings, who Levins credits for inspiring her to get involved in competition, ski raced until they graduated from college and still get on the trails whenever they get the chance. It’s safe to say, Levins skiing roots run deep.
Biathlon, however, is a relatively new venture for Levins. “I started the summer after my eighth grade year. Max Cobb recommended to my mom to send me to a three day introduction camp in Craftsbury. So I went there and Algis Shalna, my coach now, saw something and invited me to the next camp in Lake Placid for a week. I’ve been training with him ever since,” Levins said in a phone interview.
She has been passionate about the sport ever since. “The mental aspect of the sport really intrigues me,” Levins explained. “I think that the combination of aerobic skiing and precision shooting is very unique and is not something that you find in any other sport…It’s really exciting. You’re never out of the game. You can be a minute back and still have a chance to win because the last stage is so nerve racking. Its unreal.”
This past winter, her passion for biathlon gave the Rutland skier some impressive results. Levins has always been a great skier – in the 2013/2014 season, a highlight result was a second place finish in the U16 girls 5k mass start at Junior Nationals. But the winter of 2014/2015 is when she really made her presence known in biathlon. She won the U.S. Biathlon Association’s trials race series to qualify for the IBU World Youth Championships in Minsk, Belarus. There, she achieved an impressive 18th place finish.
But what led to such drastic improvement?
“Millions of things contributed… Something that really stands out in my head is… I think it was from my mom. She said, ‘doing your best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment’ and that is what was in my head for the entire season. I lived by that,” Levins said of her 2014/2015 season.
The Rutland native also explained that she focused on improving her shooting in the past year. “I put in a lot of time dry firing with the rifle… I just kept my eye on the process as best I could [and] tried to stay positive, which was difficult at times because biathlon is such an unpredictable sport. It’s a short way from heaven to hell in this sport so keeping it in perspective is important and I think I did that really well this past season,” Levins explained.
Another contributing factor to Levins improvement is her interest in another sport in which she excels: golf. This spring she was Vermont’s state champion and narrowly missed the podium at New England Championships with a strong fourth place. Levins gives some credit to golf for both her focus and interest in biathlon. “I see a connection with biathlon and golf mentally so I am able to apply some of the knowledge I have gotten from playing golf my entire life to biathlon and I think that’s helped me and also increased my interest in the sport,” she said.
“Golf is a game of integrity, patience, and mental toughness, all aspects of sport that can continue to be developed at the highest level and are essential to executing quality training. I believe that the game of golf is a great cross training exercise for the improvement of mental strength in general,” Levins added.
The improvement, passion, and results leave Levins with a tough decision. An incoming senior at Rutland High School, she will have to choose between college and full-time training in the coming year. “There are some juniors in biathlon that have chosen not to go to college and train since [biathlon is] not a collegiate sport,” Levins said. “But there are also some current professional biathletes that chose to go to college, race for college, and get faster at skiing, then pick up with their shooting after college. So its been done both ways and I think the best way for me to do it is to go to college right after high school.”
Even if she does attend college, Levins plans to stay involved with biathlon, “I definitely want to try and keep training for biathlon because I don’t think I could ever step away from it for four years,” the Rutland native added.
For now, however, Levins is focused on this year. She is currently in Lake Placid for a junior development camp where she is an assistant coach and a young mentor for aspiring biathletes between the ages of 11 and 15. Immediately after that Levins will stick around Lake Placid for a national team camp, where she will ski and shoot with the professionals. “I’m looking forward to upping my game and learning from them on the range. Its going to be not so much physical, I think its going to be mostly shooting camp,” Levins said.
She plans to attend a few more camps throughout the summer and will be a regular at the Jericho, Vt. biathlon range in the fall. If all goes well for the 17-year-old, she hopes to improve on an already successful junior career.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.