Schutzenski: Biathlon and Nordic Blaze the Trails

John TeafordOctober 17, 2022

Clear, crisp autumn mornings in the Heber Valley are a delight to the senses: scrub oak and sumac color the high slopes, willow and cottonwood fill the dry washes, and the scents of cedar and sage waft up from nearby flats. On just such a morning—dry, windless, and cool—this section of “Utah’s Alps” rang with the sounds of cheering along the trails and the pops of rifles on the range. Schutzenski Festival 2022 had arrived in Soldier Hollow.

Soldier Hollow hosted Schutzenski Festival 2022 on a perfect autumn morning.

Located in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain State Park, the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center played host this weekend to the 2nd Annual Schutzenski Festival. Site of biathlon and cross country events in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Soldier Hollow is known for diverse trails and challenging race courses, made even more exceptional by the numerous kilometers that have been meticulously paved for roller skiing. In this world-class environment was staged the Schutzenski Festival, a series of roller ski races and associated events displaying the talents of the nation’s best biathletes and nordic skiers.


Saturday dawned with temperatures below freezing, but the Soldier Hollow tracks had warmed up before the start of the Biathlon Mass Start. This was the second biathlon event in two days at Soldier Hollow, but Saturday’s event was the one circled on everyone’s calendar, and this was the event in which athletes acknowledged the biggest opportunities and the most severe consequences. While Schutzenski is a roller ski festival rather than an on-snow event, Saturday’s mass-start biathlon would be used to refine the selection process for US Biathlon’s World Cup Teams. Much was on the line, and emotions ran high both before and after the event.


Deedra Irwin celebrates her win in the 10k mass start alongside Joanne Reid (2nd) and Chloe Levins (3rd).
Women 10k Mass Start

Deedra Irwin led the field from start to finish, stamping her authority on the 10k Mass Start event. Shooting cleanly—and posting the second-fastest ski time—she separated herself from a national-caliber field, and established herself as one to watch in the upcoming World Cup season. Posting the day’s fastest ski time, silver medalist Joanne Reid was hindered by two misses in the initial shooting round and spent much of the race playing catch-up. She skied bravely and efficiently, clawing her way back into contention, but additional misses in the third shooting round may even have kept her from the victory. Third on the day, Chloe Levins skied and shot with confidence while the remainder of the field behind her struggled with consistency on the shooting range.


Men’s lead pack enters the shooting range in the 12.5 mass start biathlon.
Men 12.5k Mass Start

Sean Doherty posted the day’s fastest ski time (and second fastest time on the shooting range) while matching the field’s best shooting performances. Doherty worked through early laps in a field that included Vaclav Cervenka, Paul Schommer, and Campbell Wright. That group only broke up after the second and third shooting rounds. Cervenka missed two in the third shooting round, and the issue was all but decided as Doherty skied into the final shooting round with a lead. Doherty would miss once in the fourth round, but his skiing prowess was sufficient to hold on for the win.

Schutzenski Festival Biathlon Results


Cross Country Individual Start

US National Team Camps and NTG Camps have been ongoing in neighboring Park City, so many of the USA’s top nordic skiers were also in Utah this weekend. Schutzenski Festival races were scheduled to include these fine fields with men’s and women’s individual start 10k classic races on Saturday.

Jessie Diggins in full flight; 10k Classic Individual Start.

Jessie Diggins won the women’s race in commanding fashion with winning margins of 42 seconds and 46 seconds over second place finisher Novie McCabe and third place finisher Sarah Goble, respectively. The energy and power that Diggins brings to her racing is a thrill to witness, and spectators were not disappointed. With three Olympic medals to her name—and certainly the most recognizable face in American nordic skiing—Jessie is followed around the course by the voices of young fans cheering her name.

A late starter in the men’s field, US Ski Team’s Scott Patterson skied a consistent race that saw him rise to the top of the leaderboard. The top three finishers were closely grouped, with second and third place finishers—USST’s Zak Ketterson and University of Utah’s Tom Mancini—separated by less than three seconds.


Shoot out

Saturday’s finale was a highlight of the weekend as competitors gathered for a Shoot Out on the biathlon range. In front of a large and appreciative crowd, competitions were conducted in quick-draw accuracy in an environment of humor, energy, good-natured ribbing, friendly trash-talking, and eventual celebration. In a field that included both male and female competitors, Deedra Irwin emerged as champion, narrowly edging Vaclav Cervenka and Sean Doherty.



On Sunday, the trails belonged to the cross country skiers, as the Schutzenski Festival offered up a sprint competition contested on the same loop as last year’s Senior Nationals. Jessie Diggins was the top women’s qualifier on the day, advancing efficiently through her heats. Even so, it took a lunge at the line for her to best USST teammate, Julia Kern, in the women’s final. In the men’s field, Noel Keefe was the second qualifier behind Logan Diekman, but Keefe turned the tables on him in the final, taking the win by a second. The final spot on the podium remained in doubt for more than a minute, as a late-race crash involved racers two-thirds of the field. Ultimately, Reid Goble extracted himself from the pile up, crossing the line for third.

SchutzenskiFestival 2022 Final Results

John Teaford

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