The US National Guard hosted this fantastic event at Soldier Hollow, UT on February 5 & 6. The format was a 10 K Sprint on Saturday and a 12.5 K Pursuit on Sunday. Sprint includes two shooting bouts, one prone and one standing. The shooting format for Pursuit is PPSS – two bouts prone and two standing. Sunday’s race was a true Pursuit, with the start time based on the Sprint finish.
The level of competition was strong with National Guard, Civilian, and US Team biathletes arriving from all over the country.
Saturday dawned with a steady light snow falling. At race time there was three inches of wet snow over old crust. The course was punchy and soft, with two short but steep climbs out of the stadium, a long descent to the creek bottom, then a challenging gradual climb with one steep ramp back to the range. Marc Sheppard of West Yellowstone, MT won the Sprint with a time of 45:52. Far West racer Phil Violett skied well, shooting well enough to finish fourth at 47:27. Far West’s Rik Eckert finished in 58:11, 21st overall in the field of 46, 6th in Civilian Masters. Rik was thrilled with his prone shooting at 4/5, but said he hit the second lap too hard, shooting 1/5 standing.
Skies cleared overnight to reveal a spectacular Utah Sunday morning. The track was firm and fast. Both Rik & Phil gained time back in the Pursuit. Phil won Sunday’s race with much improved shooting and fast skiing in 49:28, 3:04 ahead of Sheppard, and 3:16 ahead of Utah’s Konrad Theil. Rik skied well and shot respectably to gain three places, finishing 18th in the field of 43, 6th in Civilian Masters at 1:16:52.