With two 2nd-place podium finishes, the Methow Valley’s Kelsey Dickinson headlined a crew of successful local biathletes at the National Roller Ski Biathlon Championships over the Aug. 5-6 weekend.
The event was held at the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club, a hub for summer and winter national and international biathlon competitions.
Dickinson, skiing for the Green Racing Project (GRP) of Craftsbury, Vermont, was 2nd only to 2022 Olympian Deidre Irwin at the summertime competition that serves mostly as a training ground for the more-visible and well-known winter version of the sport. Irwin took the top place on the podium on both Saturday and Sunday.
According to youth chaperone and part-time coach Colin Sands, Dickinson was in contention for most of the Sunday race as the Liberty Bell graduate and Irwin broke away from the pack early. Essentially, the race was a toss-up, Irwin clinging to a slim lead until the last round of shooting. Irwin was perfect, while Dickinson dropped a shot and had to take an extra 30 seconds to complete a penalty lap. She eventually fell 35 seconds behind the Olympian at the finish. GRP teammate Margaret Freed placed 3rd, about a minute behind Dickinson.
Eli Neilsen, another local Methow name, placed 11th overall in the senior men’s division on Saturday, improving to 6th in the Sunday race. Another 2022 Olympian, Paul Schommer of Appleton, Wisconsin, swept both the Saturday and Sunday races.
Methow Valley juniors Maren Sands, 13, and older brother Aidan also placed highly. Maren swept to victories on both Saturday and Sunday in the U-15 Youth Girls division. Aidan did not race in the sprints on Saturday, but did win the U-17 Youth Mass Start race for boys on Sunday.
Aidan Sands had been attending a national Nordic camp in nearby Lake Placid, New York, for most of the previous week with Methow Nordic teammate Ben Kaufman. Dad (Colin) broke from the venue at Jericho on Saturday afternoon for a two-hour drive to Lake Placid and shuttle Aidan back to the biathlon event for Sunday for his race. The 15-year-old skied his Sunday biathlon, then went back to Lake Placid for a week-long national biathlon camp.
Having been at the top of the podium each of the previous two years in the national U-15 race, Sands felt the desire to drop in for the Sunday race to see if he could earn the three-peat in his new U-17 age class. He overcame a couple of challenges in transportation, arriving at Jericho under the cloak of darkness early Sunday morning after a full day of racing in New York.
After a short night and then starting with a 50-second deficit because he did not record a finishing time in the Saturday Sprints, Aidan battled through all of that to climb to the top of the podium at the end of Sunday, with nearly a 4-minute cushion.
“I wasn’t sure what my legs had left for the race today, and you could certainly tell I hadn’t shot in a week or so,” said Sands after a very active 24 hours.
For the local contingent, it was a fun weekend watching and supporting each other along. “It so great to have this connection between the younger and older athletes of the Methow,” said Colin Sands. “You can see the strength of this community as they chat together before races and cheer each other on during races.”
• Liberty Bell graduate Owen Hevly led his Kenyon College SERFs to a final eight appearance in the National Championships of Collegiate Ultimate this past May. Hevly was the tournament assist leader with 21 dimes and was 3rd on the tournament goals scored list with 10 tallies. Ultimate is a club sport at NCAA Division III Kenyon, where most of its athletic teams have adopted the Owls as the official mascot. Kenyon defeated Rochester 15-11 in a play-in game, then lost 15-13 to St. Olaf’s (Minnesota) to end their tourney hopes. Colorado College defeated Middlebury (Vermont) 15-11 to win the overall championship.
• The 2023 fall sports season opened camp at Liberty Bell this week when the 2022 state 1B champion Mountain Lions began football practice on Wednesday. Cross country, girls’ soccer and volleyball get underway on Monday, Aug. 21. The Methow Valley News will be previewing each of the 2023 Mountain Lion fall programs in coming editions.