Team Soldier Hollow biathlon debuts at national championships | ParkRecord.com

Team Soldier Hollow biathlon debuts at national championships

Soldier Hollow's biathlon team, Team Soldier Hollow, wrapped up its first season on Saturday at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships. The team had 10 racers in all, recruited from cross-country teams around the area, and for its first season, head coach Zach Hall said it did well.

"I think all of the athletes really skied up to their ability level and at this point in our development as a team, that's the biggest thing we're working on and looking for," Hall said. "I was really pleased with the way the athletes performed and conducted themselves on a bigger stage."

Some of the highlights included Wes Campbell, a U-14 athlete from Team Soldier Hollow (colloquially called SoHo), taking second in the men's sprint on Thursday and second in the pursuit race on Friday. Emily Campbell also skied well in the pursuit, taking first of two competitors in the female U-14 category.

Vincent Bonacci took third in the male youth category in both the pursuit and mass start races.

Bonacci said he has been interested in the sport for years, so when he heard Soldier Hollow was fielding a team, he jumped on the opportunity. But after only a few months of training, he said he still has a lot to learn.

"The trickiest part for me is being able to shoot in races the same as I shoot in training, because it's a whole different mental game when you come into a range in a race and you're breathing as hard as you can and your heart-rate is spiked," he said. "You try and train with intervals in shooting, but there's nothing that compares with a race. You have to sort of get this focus that I'm still working on."

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He said his best shooting was in the pursuit race, where he hit 11 of 20 targets, then hit 10 during the mass start.

"So, I hit half the targets, which is not bad," he said. "There's nowhere to go but up."

Like most of the Soldier Hollow biathlon team, Bonacci is a competitive cross-country skier. This season, he finished one place outside the selections for the cross-country junior national championship, and his strong skiing skills helped compensate for his inexperience in shooting.

For each target an athlete misses, they have to ski a small penalty loop, and even with Bonacci's frequent loops, he remained competitive.

"So if I can get third and miss half of them, I figure if I can get a few more I will be able to do a little bit better," Bonacci said.

Bonacci's teammate, Lina Farra, finished fifth in the mass start and seventh in the sprint and pursuit races.

"This week has been hard," she said. "It's kind of late in the season for big races like this, so it's kind of hard to keep the fitness up, but it was a really good experience to be around all these amazing Olympians and athletes. … There's lots to learn from these guys. I'm really new to the sport so I can always learn something new."

Farra, who is also a high-level cross-country athlete, said learning biathlon has been a welcome change of pace.

"I think it's been really amazing to get kind of a mental break from just skiing and think about the focus it takes to shoot well," she said. "I think that's just a really good learning process and a fun mental challenge."

Farra said that, though Soldier Hollow incorporates a lot of athletes from other cross-country clubs, she expects that to change in the future as more people join the team independently after finding out what she has found: It's fun to mix it up.

For a complete list of results, go to utaholympiclegacy.org/location/soldier-hollow/.