Western Alaskan biathletes test skills at US Team Trials
Four biathletes with ties to rural Alaska’s Western Interior Ski Association traveled to Jericho, Vermont last week to participate in the US Team Trials for Youth and Juniors. The competition was hosted by the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club, and was sponsored by the United States Biathlon Association.
The races featured the top biathletes in the country in the junior category, consisting of 19- and 20-year-olds, and the youth category, consisting of 17- and 18-year-olds. The top finishers from the race series were selected to represent their country at the 2017 World Championships this spring.
The highest WISA placer was UAF sophomore Alyeska Daniels, whose high school racing career with Unalakleet concluded in 2015. Daniels finished eighth out of 20 racers in Friday’s six-kilometer sprint. She hit six of 10 shots and finished with a time of 23:21, just two minutes, eight seconds off leader Lexie Madigan of California.
Daniels entered the trials as one of WISA’s most decorated biathletes. She concluded her high school career with three Skimeister awards, which ties her for the most in WISA’s 30-year history. She placed 17th out of 22 during the opening 8.4-kilometer sprint race on Wednesday, and was 19th out of 22 during the 10-kilometer pursuit race on Thursday.
Nome's Bianca Trowbridge, who is currently spending her final high school year as part of Alaska Pacific University’s Early Honors Program, is the reigning high school girl WISA Skimeister. She has been training in Anchorage with the APU ski program since August. Her highest finish at the trials was 17th out of 20 in the 6-kilometer sprint.
Current Nome Ski and Biathlon team member senior Emelyne Hobbs had her best finish in the 8.4-kilometer sprint race on Wednesday. In windy and snowy conditions, Hobbs connected on five of ten shots and finished in 21st place out of 22 racers.
The youngest competitor at the US Team Trials was fifteen-year old Mallory Conger of Nome Ski and Biathlon. The competition allows biathletes younger that 17 to “race up” into the youth category. Conger, who last year earned her second WISA Skimeister award as an eighth grader, finished 21st out of 22 in the pursuit and 19th out of 20 in the 6-kilometer sprint.
The trials featured young biathletes from across the country. Racers represented the states of Alaska, Maine, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Wyoming, Montana, Washington and California. The WISA girls were exposed to a large group of US Team coaches and former Olympians. They got to spend time with Susan Dunklee, who is the top-rated female biathlete in the United States.
“I had fun at the trials,” said Conger after the races. “It was good to see how the other girls (from around the country) get ready for races, and to see how fast they go.”
WISA was well represented at the trials. Excluding the few competitors from Canada who were allowed to race exhibition, they made up over 10 percent of the field. The WISA girls were part of a 10-person Alaska contingent that comprised nearly 28 percent of the total.
Four Alaskans qualified for the 2017 U.S. Team. They were Travis Cooper of Kenai, Alex Kilby of Anchorage, Grace Gilliland of Chugiak and Helen Wilson of Eagle River.
Joining the Alaskan boy qualifiers were Vasek Cervenka of Minnesota, Jake Peraon of Wyoming, Eli Kielson of Washington, Cameron Christianson of Minnesota, Cody Johnson of Maine and Peter Carroll of California. Rounding out the field for the girls were Chloe Levins of Vermont, Amanda Kautzer of Michigan, Lexi Madigan of California, Siena Ellington of Minnesota, Hannah Streinz of Maine and Nina Armstrong of New York.
The site of the 2017 World Biathlon Championships for Youth and Juniors is currently undetermined. It had been slated for Ostrov, Russia, but due to doping allegations in that country, the site is being changed.