Biathletes of all ages met at the Sean McCabe Trails at Liberty Bell High School this past weekend for the annual Methow Valley event put on by the Washington State Biathlon Association (WSBA). Officially titled the WSBA Race No. 1, the two-day affair under sub-freezing, foggy conditions featured two youth divisions and a masters division in a distance event on Saturday followed by a sprint race on Sunday.
The youth divisions were separated into novice for beginning biathletes, and a developmental class for more-experienced youth, both classes for youth under the age of 16. The Saturday race is a test of endurance and shooting skill, with the kids skiing a 2 kilometer (novice) or 3K (developmental) total distance on a designated course, broken up by shooting sessions at the end of each lap. On Sunday, the course is cut down to distance of 100-meter laps for the super sprint, and a total distance of 500 meters, each lap again interrupted by a shooting session.
The masters class of biathletes is an adult division that features biathletes, mostly over the age of 18 that are in it for fun, exercise, and self-competition above all else.
Saturday the temperature only threatened to crest the freezing mark. The course was groomed for speed and while the temperatures were almost perfect for skiing, the foggy conditions hampered the shooting a bit. “That’s crazy!” exclaimed Chester Dreiman after emerging from the first set of targets on the range. “You can’t see anything,” although the visitor from Boulder, Colorado, managed a perfect five-for-five on his initial shoot.
Dreiman said this was his first visit to the Methow in 10 years, but he has been longing to make a trip back. “I got a chance to come back, bring my family and do some skiing and compete,” he said.
Alex Tareski, a 2021 Liberty Bell grad, returned home from Bozeman, Montana, to compete in the masters division. “My skiing was strong, but my shooting could have been better,” Tareski said after the Saturday 12.5K event.
Tareski’s father, Marc, is also an avid biathlete and was on the course this past weekend. Mother Caroline is a meet volunteer, assisting with most of the administrative tasks that go along with hosting a meet.
Methow Valley Youth Coach Betsy Devin-Smith celebrates her 20 years with the biathlon program this year. She was instrumental in getting the team off the ground back in 2002, and growing the team into a regionally significant and recognized program.
Devin-Smith has three basic rules for her charges: be safe; complete the course; have fun. Youth competitors are broken into novice and developmental classes. Each participant must complete a safety and training certification course approved by the National Biathlon Association prior to handling the rifles used in competition. Different from the adult masters class, the youth do not ski with a rifle strapped to their back. Instead, the rifles are placed by qualified adults at the mats, loaded and set up on a block for the biathlete as they arrive at the range from the skiing course.
“This is a great location,” said meet director and WSBA President Bob Vallor. “I think this would be a great venue for a national competition.” He indicated there would need to be a few more shooting lanes on the course, “but it looks like there is plenty of space to do that.” Vallor is a resident of Plain, near Lake Wenatchee.
Locals shine elsewhere
Methow Valley skiers performed well at the Sun Valley Invitational Nordic Ski Meet in south central Idaho this past weekend. Headlined by a pair of U.S. Senior Division third-place finishes by Mazama’s University of Utah Ute Novie McCabe in each of the 5K freestyle on Saturday and Sunday’s 10K classic races, several local youth placed in the top five of their age classes among fields that featured the best in the United States and some international skiers. Walker Hall, also of Mazama and the University of Utah, placed fourth in the under 20 (35th overall) age classification in the men’s 15K race Sunday, and was the top U20 finisher in Saturday’s 10K freestyle, placing 13th overall.
The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RIMSA) held the Montana State Invitational Meet in conjunction with the Sun Valley Super Tour Invitational. RIMSA is akin to a college athletic conference in most other sports, like the Pac 12 or Big Sky. McCabe’s effort placed her second in the Saturday 5K freestyle and she won the 10K classic on Sunday. On Monday she was named RIMSA’s Skier of the Meet. It was her first collegiate meet of the season after returning international World Cup competition.
Aidan Sands and Ben Kaufman both brought home first-place medals in the 14U division highlighting the boys’ side of the Methow Valley Nordic Team. Sands took the top spot in the Saturday 3K freestyle with Kaufman on his heels in second place. Kaufman won the 3K classic race on Sunday, with Sands back just a little bit, finishing in the sixth spot.
Several other Methow youth also had notable results. Liberty Bell senior Jori Grialou placed sixth among the U18 skiers (59th overall) in the Saturday 5K freestyle and fifth in U18 and 50th overall in the Sunday 10K race. Marit Nelson placed seventh in the girls’ U14 freestyle race and bumped herself up two spots to fifth in the Sunday classic 3K. The Sheley twins both skied on Saturday in the 5K freestyle. Graham placed 39th, and Carter followed in 47th place in the U18 class. Carter placed 34th U18 in the Sunday classic. Marta Schkrohowski placed 33rd among women U16 on Saturday and Stella Scholz placed 21st in the 5K freestyle and 18th in the U18 classic 10K.
Caitlyn Gregg, wife of Winthrop’s 2014 Nordic Olympian Brian Gregg, placed a very respectable eighth overall (sixth in senior division) in Sun Valley in the Saturday 5K freestyle. The Greggs head up Team Birkie, an organization working toward developing an elite Nordic skiing program/team to Minneapolis, Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Caitlyn preceded Brian’s Olympic appearance, skiing in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.