Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club junior Anders Hanson just returned from Mt. Itasca, Minnesota, where he was competing for a spot on the US Youth/Junior World Championships team. Here is his account of the week, including gruesome stories!
This past week I attended the US Junior Biathlon trials in Mt. Itasca, Minnesota. Over the summer I had begun to train for the sport of biathlon and went to several training camps run by Algis Shalna, a Lithuanian gold medalist who has been working with myself and several other local athletes: Matt Forshey, Nathaniel Kuzio, and Chloe Levins, in preparation for the trials. We all arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota early Friday afternoon, and traveled north four hours by van to the town of Grand Rapids, where we spent the next four nights. The temperatures were so cold that it felt impossible to get a good warm-up, and most athletes resorted to zeroing as fast as they could, then hightailing it back to the warming hut, where they would try to regain feeling in their extremities before the races began. I have lived in Vermont my whole life, and was of the opinion that I had already experienced every possible form of cold weather that the Northern United States could offer….. I was wrong: Minnesota brought a new meaning of cold to my vocabulary. On multiple occasions I witnessed people trying to blow ice out of their rifle’s rear sights, only to find that their lips had become stuck to its rear aperture, forcing them to rip their mouth away from the freezing metal, leaving pieces of skin still stuck to the rifle, or causing the unfortunate person to bleed all over themselves after unceremoniously parting with a small section of their face. To spare you from the other gory details I will say the venue couldn’t have been better. The course was easily one of the most fun race courses I have skied on, and the cold icy conditions made the trails lightning fast. I was especially impressed with the quality of the trails, considering the fact that Mount Itasca had little more than an inch of natural snow. One of the most challenging parts of the course was a hill called “The waterfall,” This hill could somewhat be compare to the chip hill separating the lower and upper soccer field at Craftsbury, except that it was almost vertical, and about 2 times as long. It was quite a challenge to get up. Chloe won both of her races, and will be representing team USA at the Junior World Championships in Belarus. Matt placed sixth, but probably would have won, if it had not been for his sight freezing, which cost him two minutes on the range. I really had no idea how I would end up placing in these races, and one of the things I learned was that in the sport of biathlon, you can’t get away with just being a good skier or a good shooter. To truly excel at the sport, you must be great at both. This winter and coming summer, I hope to improve my skiing and shooting, so that in future years, I can be the one on the podium.