Six Methow Valley biathletes competed in the NorAm Calforex Cup in Canmore, Alberta, on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 12 – 13). The event drew 242 racers, making it one of the largest biathlon events in North America.
On Saturday, all athletes competed in a sprint — the shortest biathlon race, with two bouts of shooting (one prone, one standing, five shots each) and three loops of skiing.
Casey Smith, who grew up in the Methow Valley and now skis for Craftsbury Green Racing Project, finished 6th in the men’s category, hitting eight of 10 targets. In the senior boys’ category, in which most 15- and 16-year-olds compete, Eli Nielsen also put on an impressive shooting performance, making eight of 10 targets. He finished fourth in a field of 35 racers.
Claire Waichler raced in the youth women’s category, with 17- and 18-year-olds. She hit five of 10 in shooting, but strong skiing on the 2-kilometer loop led her to finish 8th, midway through the field.
On Saturday afternoon, Michael Mott and Lazo Gitchos raced in the Dev 2 category. They skied on a 1.25K loop and shot twice in the prone position. Mott made eight of 10 shots, completing the race in 10th place. Gitchos hit four of 10 targets, and finished 12th in the 30-person field.
Sunday’s race varied in format for different age groups. All competitors underwent four bouts of shooting, for a total of 20 shots.
Kelsey Dickinson, a graduate of the Methow Valley Biathlon program, won the 12.5K women’s race, missing only five shots. Waichler missed six shots in the 7.5K mass start and zoomed to second place. A rocky bout of shooting led Nielsen to miss nine total targets, but swift skiing secured him 11th place in his 7.5K individual race.
In the 6.25K individual event with four bouts of prone shooting, Gitchos hit 12 targets and finished 12th in his category. Mott’s bullets knocked down nine out of 20 targets, and he finished the race in 14th place.
The range, which was the 1988 Olympic biathlon venue, lies at the base of the impressive mountains that make up Banff National Park.
Coach Betsy Devin Smith said she was satisfied with Methow Valley Biathlon’s performance in a strong field of competition from all over North America. The older juniors now look forward to U.S. Junior/Senior World Trials in Anchorage, Alaska, later this month, hoping to earn spots for international competition in Europe.