Competition will be fast and furious at the Hinton Nordic Centre from March 7 – 8 with biathletes converging from the Calforex Cup and North American Cup – West circuits.
Around 100 athletes are anticipated to be registered for the weekend, including a dozen locals in various divisions.
Hinton Cougars team members include adults Ryan Tew and Jeannot Desaulniers, as well as youth athletes Alex Vriend, Matthias Vriend, Simon Ruszkowski, Cooper Johnston, Chad Scobie, Sara Johnston, Thomas Hengel, Amelie Burkinshaw, Ronan Tew and Bodhi Walker.
“My son has been in the sport for five years now and it has been really amazing,” said Darla Walker, who is also the volunteer coordinator for the event this coming weekend.
“The athletes show a level of fitness that is hard to match, endurance has to be high in cold temperatures and they have to be able to bring their heart rate down as close to resting as possible as fast as they can so that they can shoot immediately after exertion. The community of racers are a really positive and supportive group of competitors. It’s a really healthy environment for an athlete to experience competition in.”
Walker said around 75 volunteers make the weekend happen, but that the group is still looking for around 12 people for each day.
Arrival time for volunteers will be 9:45 am on Saturday and 8:45 am on Sunday. Training is provided.
“If anyone is available we would be grateful,” said Walker, adding that volunteers are provided with a great hot chili lunch.
“Come prepared to spend the day outside, although there are warm cabins for breaks.”
Biathlon is a combination of cross country skiing and target shooting in either the standing or proned position.
Saturday’s race is mass start that begins at 11 am and will end around 2 or 3 pm.
Sunday’s race is a sprint that starts at 10 am and goes until around 1 pm.
The Cougars have had a busy couple of months with only a few weekends off in the new year.
Competitions included the 2020 Alberta Winter Games, where members earned a few medals and others flirted with podium finishes.
The last action was Feb. 22-23 in Edmonton, with 10 of 12 Cougars racing in a super sprint style competition that is different than the usual formats.
“The race loops were shorter than usual, 750 meters for the senior categories and younger, with one kilometre loops for the older categories. It started with each racer skiing a qualifying heat of three race loops with two bouts of shooting,” explained coach Robin Hengel.
He added that athletes had access to an extra bullet for each shooting bout in this race. If they missed a target the athlete had to hand load the extra bullet and attempt to hit their target. Misses after this resulted in short 75 m penalty loops.
The qualifying times placed the racers in their start position for the mass start finals.
“It was very exciting as anywhere from 16 to 24 racers entered the range to shoot after their first lap. Things spread out a bit after penalty loops were skied for the missed shots in the range,” Hengel said.
Ronan Tew finished fourth in the largest race category for the weekend. Chad Scobie finished fourth in Dev I Boys, hitting 14 of 15 targets in the final.
Coach Hengel said Cooper Johnston struggled with consistency in the range, adding he would get on a run of hit targets, but wasn’t able to sustain the results. Sara Johnston finished in second place in Dev I Girls.
Thomas Hengel, Dev II, got positive results to show for his work on shooting, hitting 10 of 15 targets in the final resulting in a seventh place finish.
Amelie Burkinshaw shot well in the prone position hitting eight of 10, however, struggled with her standing shooting.
Ryan Tew finished in seventh place, hitting nine of 10 targets in prone position.
“However, recovering from illness slowed down his skiing and affected his standing shooting results,” said Hengel.
The air rifle athletes raced a regular sprint race on Saturday, three race loops and two bouts of shooting.
Mattias Vriend and Simon Ruszkowski finished on the podium with gold and silver medals, respectively, for Air Rifle II. Alexandre Vriend, competing in Air Rifle I, finished in fourth place.
Action this weekend at the Hinton Nordic Centre raises funds for the local club and the centre itself, and will conclude the biathlon season for the Hinton Cougars.
Anybody looking to help volunteer can contact Darla Walker at email@example.com.
The race was originally scheduled for January, but the record cold snap forced postponement and rescheduling for later in the season.