Race Report by Colin Edwards
The Biathlon Championship event was hosted Friday March 13th and Saturday March 14th at the Algoma Rod & Gun Club in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Overall the event was sucsessful, despite what was called the ‘Forces of Nature’ going against the competition on Friday with freezing rain. All 41 athletes had an enjoyable event, with a group from St. Joseph Island trying biathlon for the first time, many young first year athletes participating for their first time, several athletes competing as regular athletes from Timmins, Collingwood, Shallow Lake, and Sault Ste. Marie, and two past athletes of mine coming out of retirement to race against each other in the Men’s 15 Mass Start race, where they were only 6 seconds apart from the finish line.
Thursday was a cool day for setting-up the facility, with several volunteers spending several hours laying out the course, setting targets, and construction elevated shooting frames. 18 shooting lanes were prepared for both air rifle and .22 cal rifle athletes, which was plenty for the number of athletes attending the event. The course was freshly groomed, and was fast to ski on by the afternoon. Friday unfortunately started off bad. I had my truck loaded by 6:30 am, ready for me to drive to the facility early so I could perform my check of the facility grounds. As I was walking out of my house with my last piece of equipment (my spotting scope), and viewing that my driveway was dry; I said to myself a very regretful statement “I thought it was supposed to rain last night and today?”. No sooner as I made this statement, I could hear rain droplets on my metal roof, that grew louder and louder. Within 15 minutes, the rain began to freeze into a persistent downpour, which would be an immediate safety concern for the competition, as the snow would soon turn into a sheet of ice and would be unsafe for the athletes to ski on.
By 9:00 am the parking lot was an ice rink, the course itself was starting to freeze up, and the race was to start at 12:30 pm. Thankfully, we were able to have parking lot sanded to create appropriate traction for vehicles and individuals walking. And by 11:30 am, the driver of the large groomer finally was able to make it over to our facility to literally tear-up the trails so the icy snow on top would be crushed and mixed with the fresh snow from below. Soon after the groomer finished the maintenance of the trails, the persistent down pour turned into a light drizzle, then to a mist. The course was safe to ski on, the range was open for the athletes to zero their rifles, and the race started only an hour late. Everyone was relived that the athletes were able to race. Part of the event package, a gift bag was included for each athlete. The bag included a Cow Bell that the host ski club Soo Finnish donated to the event, a race event poster, an Arby’s coupon, a Madshus neck warmer, and a Hammer Nutrition sample pack of either Heed, Whey Protein, Recoverite, or Gel with a ‘Little Red Book’ with information on Hammer Nutrition products and how to use the product. I received a comment from the Administrative crew, that every single athlete was shocked and was extremely happy that they received a gift bag with a bunch of goodies, as this is not common at biathlon events. Most notably the younger athletes 8 to 14 were very excited. The athletes were also instructed to talk with me about their specific Hammer Nutrition sample that they received if they had any questions about that product or any other product. I received an overwhelming abundance of positive questions related about the sample pack and other products by athletes, coaches and parents, that when I had “spare time” I sat each team down and talked about each product, and a couple other products such as Perpetrum and Sustained Energy in great detail. Explaining the benefits of specific Hammer Nutrition products versus other high-end products found in stores, and why I strongly recommend and commonly use Hammer Nutrition products over the past several years.
Saturday was an easier day. The course was back to its original state without the layer of ice. The interval sets between each Mass Start were perfectly timed so that the range would not be clustered with multiple athletes, and the coaches would have plenty of time to prepare themselves and their rifles between each set of athletes.
As the event concluded, recognitions from the event was presented. One athlete, who was 12 and competed in his first biathlon competition was the only athlete to shoot perfectly clean the entire weekend with shooting 25 of 25 of his targets. Athletes who shot 5 for 5 in any bout of the race were all recognized, and received a chocolate bar for their accomplishments – we almost ran out of chocolate bars, which is a good thing to see. Two athletes from Highlands Nordic Ski Club and one from Shallow Lake Biathlon Club received the Female and Male Hurley Cup as being the top Junior Boy or Junior Girl athlete based on the point standings. The female recipient was Hanna Skelton from Highlands Nordic with a total of 286 points out of 300, and the male recipients with a tie between Braden Lohnes from Highland Nordic and Wyatt Knowles of Shallow Lake with a total of 288 points out of 300.
As the event ended, and as I am writing this event overview, many parents and athletes were very thankful for events hosting ability, stating that the club always sets the standard for races and the gift bag and door prizes at the banquet were excellent – many of the athletes are planning for the event next year.