ANCHORAGE, Alaska — It’s been a rough month weather-wise in Alaska’s largest city. The last three weeks alone have seen a series of storms deposit 40+ inches of snow, over half of Anchorage’s annual total; an unprecedented six snow days within an eight-day span for the Anchorage School District; a windstorm that raked the west side of town with gusts of nearly 70mph; and a two-week stretch in which the average temperature was in the single digits Fahrenheit above zero.
None of these things is particularly compatible with hosting high-level biathlon races. Thankfully, the trials for the American teams for (deep breath) Youth and Junior World Championship in Kazakhstan, Junior IBU Cup/Junior Open European Championship in Latvia and Estonia, and World University Games in Lake Placid did not kick off until today.
Wednesday at Kincaid Park saw race-time temperatures of 27° F and a light breeze blowing consistently from one direction (the north, as anyone who has ever spent any time at Kincaid knows well). The result was some of the most benign weather that anyone in town has seen all month, and virtually perfect conditions for racing. Trail conditions were very good after all that snow, albeit somewhat dirty due to dirt and organic debris blown onto the trail surface in last Friday’s windstorm.
This afternoon brought the first of three races this week: a 7.5-kilometer sprint for junior, youth, and university women, and a 10-kilometer sprint for all three classes of men. Three laps, of 2.5 kilometers and 3.3 kilometers, respectively, with prone shooting after lap one and standing shooting after lap two. One penalty lap of 150m per missed shot. Lowest total ski time wins.
Helen Wilson (Crosscut Mountain Sports Center) led the way for the women with the day’s fastest time across all categories, aided by only one miss, in prone. She was followed in the overall standings by Dolcie Tanguay of Paul Smith’s College (1, 3), 17.3 seconds back, and Virginia Cobb of Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (0, 2), 33.2 seconds back.
(Terminology note: numbers in parentheses separated by commas refer to the total number of missed shots, for prone and standing shooting, respectively. Hence the second-place finisher, Tanguay, missed one shot in prone and three shots in standing; the third-place finisher, Beaulieu, missed one shot each in prone and standing. You may also be wondering about time penalties for missed shots: That applies to the “individual” race format, not the sprint format contested today. Athletes in today’s sprint race had to ski an additional loop for each missed shot; their time around that penalty loop is included in their total ski time.)
Other top-five finishers includes Sarah Beaulieu of Sugar Bowl Ski Team (1, 1) in fourth and Ariana Woods of Crosscut (0, 2) in fifth. Sub-categories listed in the posted version of results (youth vs. junior), and referred to in an earlier version of this article, are not precisely accurate, multiple athletes’ parents have informed Nordic Insights.
Turning to the junior men, Van Ledger (0, 2) posted the day’s fastest time, 28:25.2, over the 10km course. He was followed by Etienne Bordes (0, 2), 27 seconds back, and Timothy Cobb (3, 0), 1:59 back. All three junior men’s podium finishers ski for Crosscut.
Finally, in the day’s most populous division, youth men, Nathan Livingood (Jackson Biathlon/Gould) (1, 1) led the way in 29:50.3 to place first among 21 athletes. This was enough to eke out a two-second victory over Thor Sheppard (1, 1) of Team Altius/Biathlon Alberta Training Centre. Third place went to Matej Cervenka (2, 2) of Minnesota Biathlon, 1:17 back.
Racing continues with a pursuit race (four shooting stages) on Thursday and another sprint race on Saturday. Point lists for international qualification will be “calculated off of the best 2 of 3 results for each athlete using the USBA percent-back system,” per U.S. Biathlon. “The point base will include only American athletes.”
Athletes are competing in all three races under the same-wax protocol used by USBA for its youth trials races. Team nominations will presumptively be announced within 24 hours of the close of Saturday’s race.
This concludes Nordic Insights’ coverage of this year’s biathlon trials, unfortunately, as this reporter is getting on a plane to Houghton tomorrow for U.S. Nationals. I leave you with a download link to a folder of all images that I took today: click here for photos.
Update: The local paper, the Anchorage Daily News, had a fine story on Thursday’s race, albeit focused primarily on the Alaskans, and great photos. Find that article here.
Some fine print on these images:
- Please download and use these photos free of charge. If you share them on Instagram, please tag Nordic Insights (@nordicinsights) when you do so. Feel free to crop or manipulate in any way you like first.
- If you, like, become famous and use these for commercial purposes, please let me know, and you can kick in $20 toward the Nordic Insights GoFundMe or something.
- Every single photo here needs to be cropped and lightened. I am letting athletes do that on their own, since, as noted, I am getting on a plane in 24 hours, and am totally overwhelmed right now. Plus juniors will probably be better at this than me, anyway.
- I will be the first to note that some of these are not, actually, very good photos (I used some of the better ones for this article). On a scale of 1 to 10 for nordic sport race photography, with 10 being “Steve Fuller” and 1 being “really a print reporter at heart who is using a borrowed DSLR for the first time and didn’t figure out how to use it in advance of race day like he clearly should have,” I’m basically a 1. Maybe a 1.5 at best. I did strive to get at least one photo of every athlete; if the photo I have in there of you is blurry and, well, sucks, I really apologize. It reflects my lack of skill and prior time with this camera, and says nothing about you.
— Gavin Kentch
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