Whistler BC, Canada, March 28. Wynn Roberts (Battle Lake, MN) and Leif Nordgren (Marine-on-St. Croix, MN) went one-two in the Junior 10K Sprint competition, while Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, NY) claimed second place in the Mens 10K Sprint at the Canadian National Championships here this morning.
Roberts and Nordgren started one after another today (Nordgren 30 seconds before Roberts), raced together over all three loops, and finished almost side-by-side. Roberts with two penalties finished in a time of 27:59 while Nordgren with one prone penalty, finished 19.1 seconds back. The duo from Minnesota skied into the prone stage together with each picking up a single penalty. They left the penalty loop simultaneously, toured the challenging 3.3K loop, and set up on adjacent lanes with first place on the line. Nordgren cleaned just seconds before Roberts finished shooting and was out. Roberts flew around the penalty loop. Almost catching his teammate in the final loop, but still gaining the victory.
Roberts was happy to win after a strong early season and a mid-season slump, “My shooting has improved a lot since I started using earplugs when I shoot. Earlier in the year, if Leif had been shooting on the lane next to me as he was in standing today, I would have been listening to his shots. Today, I did not know he shot clean.” Even in victory, he admitted that it was time for a rest, after a season that started in November, “My legs are pretty achy.”
In a video interview, Roberts and Nordgren talk about their duel today and give their impressions of the Whistler Olympic Park Biathlon venue:
Third in the Junior 10K Sprint went to Canadian Maxime Leboeuf (QC), with two penalties, 25.9 seconds back, with Russell Currier (Stockholm, ME) with four penalties, in fourth place, 41.6 seconds back.
The only US competitor in the Junior Women’s 7.5K Sprint was Hilary McNamee (Fort Fairfield, ME), with one penalty, finishing 2:20.9 behind Megan Tandy (BC), who won in 22:42.7.
As is the case for most biathletes at the end of the season, having fun is almost more important than competitions and results. Accordingly, Tim Burke, after a convincing victory in the 20K individual on Thursday, spent part of Friday’s rest day on the downhill slopes at Whistler Resort, “preparing” for today’s 10K Sprint. Burke finished second today, with four penalties, 27.6 seconds behind Canadian Jean Philippe Leguellec (QC), also with two penalties. Leguellec’s winning time was 26:43. Third went to the veteran Robin Clegg (AB), with two penalties, just two-tenths of a second behind Burke.
Even in second place, Burke was happy with his race preparation, “Yesterday (downhill skiing) was worth it. Of course, my legs are really sore today. There was no way I could get into a tuck out there today. Like everyone, I am here to check out the Olympic courses and race, but also to have some fun.” As for his race today, “I only wish I had gotten a split on the last loop. I had no idea how close I was. After the two penalties, I thought I was out there cruising for 10th place, until I heard the stadium announcer say I was tied for first (Leguellec had not finished at that stage).”
Having seen the 20K course on Thursday, and now the 10K today, Burke compared the two, “Of the two, I think this one (10K) is a bit tougher. It has a long steady climb of several minutes in the middle which is harder than any part of the 20K.”
The rest of the US men finished well behind Burke today. Jeremy Teela (Anchorage, AK) finished ninth, with four penalties, 1:06.6 back, closely followed by Walt Shepard (Brunswick, ME). Shepard continued his hot shooting streak going 10-for-10 today, to finish 5.4 seconds behind Teela. Shepard, who had devoted the past two seasons to collegiate cross-country, said, “I have not shot much over the past year. When I got to the National Championships last week, it just all came together and I have been on a roll. It has been great fun!” As for his future in biathlon, “I plan to compete in college next year and then devote the next year to biathlon (2010) and see what happens.”
Following Shepard were Jesse Downs Jericho, VT) in 13th with three penalties, 1:57.7 back and Duncan Douglas (Honeoye Falls, NY), also with three penalties, 2:42.9 back. Both Downs and Douglas compete for the National Guard. Development Team athletes Jason Ray (Pinedale, WY), with two penalties and Zach Hall (Nikiski, AK) with four penalties finished 17th and 20th, 3:09.1 and 4:10.6 back respectively.
Development Team member Sara Studebaker (Boise, ID) claimed third place for the second time this week. Studebaker, with two penalties finished 53.3 seconds behind Canadian star Zina Kocher (AB), with three penalties. Kocher won in 21:51.7. Claude Gadbout (QC) with one penalty, finished 38.3 seconds back.
Studebaker happy but looking fatigued after five races over the past nine days commented, “I am glad the race was not longer. I am really tired. Luckily, this course is a bit easier than the 15K was. We cut off before the big hill that is part of the men’s course.”
Behind Studebaker were Haley Johnson (Lake Placid, NY), in fifth, with four penalties, 1;15.7 back; Laura Spector (Lenox, MA), in sixth, with four penalties, 1;28.6 back, BethAnn Chamberlain (Fort Kent, ME), in ninth with four penalties, 3:05.3 back and Denise Teela (Anchorage, AK), in 10th, also with four penalties, 3:51 back.
On Thursday, missed two US competitors in the Senior Boys 7.5K Individual competition were missed as the results came out after publication, Casey Smith and Matthew Coleman, both from Washington finished third and 17th respectively. Smith, with six penalties, finished 1:21.6 behind Maxime Giguere-Viger of Quebec, with five penalties who won in 31:09.2. Coleman had 11 penalties, finishing 9:45.6 back.
These Canadian Championships close on Sunday with Mixed Relay competitions in all categories. The US Biathlon Team will field several teams.