Soldier Hollow will host Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships | ParkRecord.com

Soldier Hollow will host Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships

On Sunday, Soldier Hollow will be crowded with cross-country skiers, though unlike a usual weekend, nearly all the athletes will represent a unit of the U.S. National Guard. That's because Sunday marks the beginning of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships, which serve as the selection process for the National Guard's national biathlon team, the All-Guard team.

According to Shawn Robison, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Utah National Guard biathlon team, this is the first time the series will be held in Utah since the National Guard started endorsing biathlon among its enlistees in the 1970s.

The four-day competition will draw teams from National Guard units across the U.S. The top 15 men's finishers and top 5 women finishers (based on number of competitors in each gender), will become part of the All-Guard team, which will then compete against other militaries in Europe and South America.

"In 2017, Utah was named the National Guard Biathlon Western Regional Hub with Vermont as the Eastern Hub and Minnesota as the Central Hub," Robison said. "Utah was chosen because of our world-class facilities at Camp Williams and Soldier Hollow. This is Utah's opportunity to show that we can support and run this competition to the highest standards. Once we succeed at that, we will be on a three-year rotation with Vermont and Minnesota."

The series starts with a sprint on Sunday, followed by a pursuit on Monday, a relay race on Wednesday, and a patrol race on Thursday.

According to Robison, about 150 competitors from the National Guard have registered for the race, coming from the 30 states with National Guard units that have biathlon teams.

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Though Robison said the relationship between the military branch and the sport is strong, only a small fraction of its enlisted members compete.

"It's not for everyone," he said. "It's definitely one of the more challenging sports, because you go from a high level of exercise to a calm."

But, he said, for some members of the National Guard, it's an important part of their lives.

"It's a bug you get, and if you like it, you like it, and if you don't, you don't," he said.

Robison said less than 1 percent of the National Guard competes in biathlon, and locally, about 25 members of the Utah National Guard participate. Regardless, he said the competition will be strong. In particular, Alaskan competitors Travis Cooper and Tadhg Nakada, former Olympians Duncan Douglas of Rhode Island and Dan Westover of Vermont, and Park City competitor Jeremy Teela will push the pace.

Robison said there will be signs to guide spectators, and recommended finding a spot near the penalty loop for a close view of the action. Races start at 9 a.m. each day of the series.