Methow native Kelsey Dickinson’s competitive spirit takes her to biathlon’s World Cup in Europe
By Don Nelson
Biathlon isn’t easy. The sport requires not only world-class Nordic skiing and sharpshooter marksman skills, but also a powerful determination to continue training and competing at an international level.
Liberty Bell High School graduate Kelsey Dickinson has combined those attributes so well that she recently won a spot on the United States Biathlon Team that will compete at the World Cup in Europe beginning in late November 2017.
Dickinson, a senior at St. Scholastica College in Duluth, Minnesota, has been at a training camp with the U.S. national team at Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, prepping for the first three sessions of World Cup competition, which will begin later this month in Sweden. But first, Dickinson travels with the team to Norway for a pre-cup tune-up. World Cup competition starts just after Thanksgiving, then moves to Austria and France, concluding the first round in December.
Dickinson earned her spot on the U.S. team at trials races in August and October at the U.S. Biathlon Rollerski competition in Vermont, claiming one of the final two positions to represent the United States. Dickinson won the trials series in best-three-of-four scoring, according to an article on fasterskier.com. She spent this summer at the Craftsbury, Vermont, Outdoor Center training for biathlon, according to fasterskier.com.
Kelsey’s parents are Pete and Janice Dickinson. Pete is a physical therapist in Winthrop who has accompanied the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team on its competitive circuit.
The Dickinsons moved to the Methow Valley when Kelsey was 5, and she had already been skiing for a couple of years. The 2011 Liberty Bell graduate is a veteran of many junior nationals events, as well as the Biathlon World Juniors competition, and has traveled overseas before to represent the United States. A few years back, she and fellow Methow Valley biathletes Casey Smith and Paul Everett traveled to the Czech Republic for the International Biathlon Union’s Open European Championships.
“She has competed in ski racing her whole life,” Janice Dickinson said of her daughter. “She was raised by our exceptional collection of ski coaches.”
Kelsey credits her success to the support of her parents, her Methow Valley instructors, other local biathlon competitors, and her college coaches. That started close to home with Methow Valley Biathlon Team coach Betsy Devin-Smith and accomplished biathlete Casey Smith.
“They’re the reason I’m doing the sport,” she said in a recent interview. It also helped that some of her closest friends were into biathlon.
Biathlon is not a college sport, which means that athletes like Dickinson must find other ways to train and compete after high school. For many, that means taking a “gap” year or two while pursuing a college degree. Dickinson took a year off to compete with Sun Valley Nordic.
“It’s possible to do it in college, but it is a challenge,” she said, “There is not a lot of infrastructure for pursuing it.”
Dickinson said her coaches at St. Scholastica have been “incredibly supportive” of her biathlon efforts. She has twice competed for St. Scholastica in the NCAA finals for Nordic skiing. The school’s athletic teams are called the Saints.
Part of community
When biathlon training and competition requires travel, Dickinson does homework while on the road.
“I find it amazing that she is still in school,” Janice Dickinson said. “Her professors at her small college are so supportive that they are taping lectures for her and helping her work around not being there.”
St. Scholastica is a well-regarded private school with its main campus in Duluth, overlooking Lake Superior. Dickinson said she likes living in Duluth, a port city hunkered on the north shore of “the big lake.” Lumber and iron ore were the early foundations for the city’s fortunes, but it now relies on shipping (the 1,000-footers call at Duluth’s port) and tourism.
“It’s been fun to be part of the community,” Dickinson said.
“The Greggs [Methow native Brian and his wife, Caitlin, both accomplished Nordic skiers and Minnesota residents] told me about it,” Dickinson said of St. Scholastica. “It was the best choice.”
Dickinson said she will “definitely graduate this year” with a double degree in natural science and philosophy. She plans to attend graduate school, pursuing philosophy and science, and continue biathlon competition.
Dickinson has a year of eligibility left at St. Scholastica and will compete in Nordic skiing after the World Cup trip.
The Methow native said she misses the valley “very dearly … I think about it every day … I don’t think I could have done it without the support of the community. I owe everything to them.”
That kind of encouragement has helped produce Winter Olympics Nordic skiing competitors like Sadie and Erik Bjornsen and Brian Gregg, all from the Methow Valley. “I have amazing support, and I always feel it,” Dickinson said.
The World Cup races are televised, and you can look for coverage at www.biathlonworld.com.