Soldier Hollow hosts biathlon Junior World Championship Qualifiers
In many sports, including biathlon, the World Junior Championships are young athletes’ first experience in international competition; their first peek into a much larger, more competitive world.
From Friday, Dec. 28, through Monday, biathletes at Soldier Hollow competed for just such a chance.
From Vermont to Alaska, athletes came to Soldier Hollow to compete in the Youth and Junior World Championship Team Trials, the nation’s qualifier for the International Biathlon Union’s Youth and Junior World Championships, scheduled to take place in Osrblie, Slovakia, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 3.
The U.S. will field teams of up to four athletes in two categories per gender in Slovakia. Some of those spots had already been taken by competitors who had strong performances last season, others had qualified based on points through other biathlon events. The three-race qualifier in Midway was a chance for those not already on the list to earn a place on the national team’s roster for the Junior World Championships.
“It’s just a great experience for them to go over there at a relatively young age and start competing internationally, so later on in their careers that feels normal,” said Tim Burke, U.S. Biathlon development manager. “There are opportunities for these athletes to qualify for things like a junior national team, which we hope to have in place next year, and for different development camps next year.”
On Friday, athletes took to the snow in hopes of earning a place at the international level.
Friday’s sprint results
The competition started with a 10 km. sprint race on Friday, in which competitors had two bouts of shooting – one standing, one in prone position. Like every biathlon race, the competitors had to complete a short penalty lap for each shot they missed.
In junior men, Cody Johnson, 21, of the U.S. National Guard team, led the race, missing just one of 10 targets and finishing the race in 30 minutes, 16.5 seconds. He was followed by Eli Nielson of Methow Valley Biathlon, who missed three targets (31:10.0), Tim Cunningham of Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (31:39.5) who missed five, and Gabe Raguse of Nizzwa North West, who missed five targets (31:39.5).
In Youth Men, Garrett Beckrich of Minnesota Biathlon took first after missing two targets (28:53.4), followed by Team Soldier Hollow’s Vincent Bonacci, who missed three, (30:11.1), Tim Cobb of Ethan Allen who missed three (30:54.7), and Steffen Cuneo of Auburn Ski Club, who also missed three (32:02.2).
Ariana Woods led the women’s junior competitors (there were only three) in a 7.5 km. sprint, where the Bridger Biathlon athlete finished with a time of 27:30 after missing six targets. Sarah Beaulieu of Sugar Bowl Academy took second with a time of 28:55.8 after missing five targets. Bianca Trowbridge of Biathlon Alaska missed six targets and finished third with a time of 35:23.1.
Fifteen women competed at the youth level, led by Soldier Hollow’s Lina Farra, who missed three targets and finished with a time of 26:24.9. Lexie Madigan of Auburn Ski Club finished second (27:18.5) after missing four targets. Emma Stertz from Mt. Itasca Biathlon took third (27:22.2) after missing three targets, and Helen Wilson of Alaska Biathlon Club in fourth (27:41.8) who missed five targets.
Sunday’s pursuit race
The pursuit race is a staggered start with four rounds of shooting, — two prone, and two standing — one between each of the five laps that make up the 10 km race.
There were five competitors in the youth men’s pursuit, with Nielson finishing first (32:08.5) after missing four of 20 targets. Gabe Raguse of Nisswa North West finished second (32:21.3) after missing three targets, followed by Johnson in third (33:06.0), who missed five targets, and Cunningham in fourth (33:08.2), who missed eight targets.
At the youth men’s level, Beckrich led the competition again with a final time of 30:39.6 among the 29-person field. He missed three targets.
Beckrich was followed by Maxime Germain of Alaska Biathlon Club in second (31:23.9), who missed three targets, Steffen Cuneo of Auburn Ski Club in third (32:01.3), who also missed three targets, and Bjorn Westervelt of Craftsbury Biathlon in fourth (32:44.7), who missed eight targets.
The women’s pursuit race was also 10 km. and had four shooting bouts.
Woods led the juniors (40:26.5) after missing eight targets. She was followed by Beaulieu in second (42:20.3), who missed eight targets, and Trowbridge in third (50:09), who missed six targets.
Madigan led the youth women’s competition (39:43.9) after missing five targets, followed by Wilson in second (39:50.8) who missed five targets, Stertz in third (40:46.1), who missed four targets, and Farra in fourth (41:32), who missed eight targets.
Monday’s sprint race
Monday was another sprint competition, with two bouts of shooting. The junior and youth women competed in a 6 km. race,
At the junior women’s level, Beaulieu led the race (21:41.0) missing two targets. She was followed by Woods in second (22:10.6) after missing five targets and Trowbridge in third (28:09) after missing six targets.
Stertz led the 15-person field of youth women again, putting herself in the running for a Junior World Championship berth. She finished with a final time of 21:41 and missed one target. Maja Lapkass of Alaska Biathlon Club took second (20:58.9) after missing one target. Madigan missed two targets and finished third (21:05.4), and Wilson, another likely World Championship likely, took fourth (21:07.3) after missing three targets.
The junior men competed in a 10 km. sprint, and the youth men competed in a 7.5 km sprint.
Eli Nielsen took first in the youth competition (21:45.9) after missing three targets. Johnson finished second (21:47.2) after also missing three targets, putting himself among the top overall competitors. Cunningham missed four targets and took third (22:00.6), which also put him in the running for a Junior World Championship berth, and Raguse finished fourth (22:35.0) after missing three targets.
In the youth men’s competition, Westervelt took first (21:04.2) after missing three targets. He was followed by Germain in second, (21:24.5) who missed two targets, Bonacci in third ,(21:26.4) who missed three targets, and Cuneo in fourth (21:59.5), who missed two targets. All of those athletes were among a close field competing for World Junior Championship berths.
The final results are posted on TeamUSA.org/biathlon, as will selections for the Junior World Championship team, which weren’t released by press time.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.