In spite of the extremely low snow conditions in California for the US Biathlon Championships March 20th-22nd, the Auburn Ski Club Training Center was able to host three successful championship races. Due to the limited snow cover and warm temperatures, all the races had to be run on a groomed 1.5 km loop. The week following hosting the Junior XC Nationals, held at ASC March 7th-14t,h, all nearby and remaining snow was stock piled along the 1.5 km loop and distributed after each biathlon race to maintain the loop through the three races.
Although the loop was limited in length it had plenty of undulating terrain with an uphill approach followed by a short flat section prior to the shooting range. The uphill approach to the range combined with the 7200 foot elevation provided the participants with some challenging shooting (read, breathing) conditions.
In the sprint race on Friday, Patrick Johnson from the Auburn Ski Club won the senior men’s division with clean shooting. A recent convert to biathlon, Johnson was named to the U.S. Biathlon Association’s Development Team in October. He notched a minute and a half win on home turf in the 10 k sprint over Mike Gibson of the Craftsbury Green Racing project, who had five penalties. Third place went to Max Durtschi, a former professional cyclist who was named to USBA’s X Team this fall. Durtschi had six penalties and finished three minutes and 14 seconds behind Johnson.
In the women’s 7.5 k sprint Clare Egan of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project won with only three misses out of 10 shots. Egan had hopped a plane home from Europe after a successful World Championships stint, where in her first appearance on the sport’s biggest stage she finished 40th in the sprint. In Truckee, that equated to a one minute, 49 second win over Kelsey Dickinson of the Maine Winter Sports Center, who also had three penalties. Katrina Howe, also of the MWSC, finished third.
On Saturday, Patrick Johnson and Clare Egan again won their respective 12.5 and 10 k pursuit races, becoming two-time National Champions. Johnson picked up eight penalties in 20 shots, but still cruised to a one minute, 50 second win over Durtschi, who had seven penalties of his own. Gibson placed third, 37 seconds behind Durtschi with nine penalties.
Egan accrued seven penalties in the pursuit, but finished 32 seconds ahead of Dickinson. Maddie Phaneuf, racing up from the junior division, had a strong race until the last bout, shooting clean for the first three stages. In the last standing stage, however, the Maine Winter Sports Center athlete picked up four penalties and ultimately finished third, 33 seconds behind Dickinson.
On Sunday the race series ended with a mixed relay. The teams were made up by the organizers based on results from the previous races in an effort to make the teams as evenly balanced and competitive as possible. It turned out to be an exciting and fun race to end the nationals on. The mixed team of Phil Violett (Senior Men, Auburn Ski Club), Phaneuf, and Scott Waichler (Master Men, Methow Valley) won this mixed relay.
The top shooter award sponsored by Altius Handcrafted Firearms in West Yellowstone, MT, went to Maddie Phaneuf from Old Forge, NY, with 5 misses out of 30 shots over the first 2 days of racing.
Photo Gallery from Mark Nadell, MacBeth Graphics
-Chelsea Little contributed reporting.