The U.S. Biathlon Association (USBA) has named five women and six men to its senior national team for the 2017/2018 season, and 14 more athletes to its several development teams.
The nominations are headlined by Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee, both of whom won individual medals at 2017 World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria. They are joined on the “A” team by their World Championships teammates Clare Egan, Joanne Reid, Maddie Phaneuf, Tim Burke, Leif Nordgren, and Sean Doherty.
“This year it really culminated in a perfect way,” USBA Chief of Sport Bernd Eisenbichler said. “The best thing about it — besides being so successful and having a dream season — is that the upcoming and younger athletes, like Leif, Sean, Maddie, Joanne, and Clare, they see now that it’s not only the athletes from Norway and Germany succeeding. At some races we took medals and then we also proved it on the Olympic course. It’s giving a lot of confidence to the whole program.”
The men’s relay team notched sixth- and seventh-place relay efforts this season, and Nordgren picked up four top-30 finishes despite missing almost half the season with an injury. Doherty also missed almost half the season due to illness, but came back to earn a top-20 in the Kontiolahti pursuit at the end of the season. Veteran Burke collected four top-30’s over the course of the year.
On the women’s side, Egan and Reid picked up two and one top-30 finishes apiece, and Phaneuf had a 10th-place pursuit result on the IBU Cup.
Also snagging an “A” team nomination is Paul Schommer, who came from the senior development team to land consistent World Cup starts from the middle of the season onwards. Schommer had a top individual finish of 33rd in the individual in Antholz, Italy, and contributed to an eighth-place mixed relay effort in Kontiolahti, Finland.
“Paul had a great season for his second year in biathlon, and made really big improvements,” Eisenbichler said. “He showed that he can be a really good alternative, or even more than that, for the men’s relay and other relays too. He showed that in Korea and especially in Kontiolahti in the mixed relay there. He had a top-35 result at his first World Cup, so we felt that he is really very close to the big guys and separated himself from the athletes who were performing with him at the beginning of the season in the IBU Cups.”
Landing on the “B” team are Emily Dreissigacker (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) and Russell Currier (Outdoor Sports Institute). Currier started the year on the World Cup, finishing 34th in the pursuit in Oberhof, Germany, before moving to the IBU Cup. Dreissigacker racked up five top-30 finishes on the IBU Cup circuit this season.
“They will get a lot of camp time in Lake Placid,” Eisenbichler said of the “B” team. “They will also get direct coaching from the National Team coaches. In Emily’s regard it’s from Jean Paquet, and in Russell’s regard from Jonas Johansson. So they have not only access to the training plan from the ‘A’ Team, but also their individualized plan from the national team coaches. They will spend about seven to eight weeks in Lake Placid from May to August.”
Chloe Levins, who finished fourth in the youth women’s pursuit at World Youth and Junior Championships this season, and IBU Cup racer Jake Brown comprise next season’s “X” Team, which is seen as consisting of athletes who are expected to make the jump to the “A” team within two years.
“The ‘B’ team should be very close to the World Cup, and we expect ‘B’ Team members to be able to really chase the World Cup team for the next season and to have a really good shot for the Olympic Games,” Eisenbichler explained. “That’s the difference between the ‘B’ Team and the ‘X’ Team. The ‘X’ Team is still a development team, for athletes who just started biathlon or young athletes, as we have this year.”
USBA has also named a five-member Senior Development Team, consisting of Hallie Grossman and Alex Howe (Craftsbury Green Racing Project), Siena Ellingson (Mount Itasca), Travis Cooper (National Guard Biathlon), and Max Durtschi.
And the Junior Development Team consists of athletes with some of the top U.S. results at World Youth and Junior Championships: Vasek Cervenka (Mount Itasca, 16th in youth individual), Cody Johnson (Outdoor Sports Institute, 46th in junior sprint), Jake Pearson (Casper Mountain Biathlon Club, 49th in youth individual), Amanda Kautzer (Michigan Tech/Loppet Nordic Racing, 42nd in youth pursuit), Grace Gilliland (Alaska Biathlon, 46th in youth individual), and Helen Wilson (Alaska Biathlon, 62nd in youth individual). Lexie Madigan of the Auburn Ski Club was also named; she qualified for the World Youth Championships team but was younger than the minimum age set by the International Biathlon Union to compete.
“The setup is, they are regionally coached with consulting from the National Team coaches,” Eisenbichler said. “They can get access to the training philosophy, but they are coached by their own regional or club coaches. But they are also invited to Lake Placid, the seniors for two camps, and the younger ones for one camp. At the [Rollerski National Championships] in mid-August, we will re-evaluate their performance levels and see who gets more invitations later on towards the fall.”
The team nominations are as follows:
Maddie Phaneuf (Old Forge, N.Y.) A 3 Team
Emily Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.) B Team
Sean Doherty (Center Conway N.H.) A 2 Team
Paul Schommer (Appleton, Wis.) A 3 Team
Russell Currier (Stockholm, Maine) B Team
X Team Women
Siena Ellingson (Minnetonka, Minn.)
Alex Howe (Craftsbury, Vt.)
Travis Cooper (Kenai, Alaska)
Helen Wilson (Eagle River, Alaska)
Lexie Maddigan (Truckee, Calif.)
Jake Pearson (Casper, Wyo.)
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.