by Eric Hanson
CRAFTSBURY – Despite COVID, locally-based skiers headed to Europe in November to race on the World Cup Cross Country Ski and Biathlon circuits.
Biathlon racing began in late November in Kontiolahti, Finland, where Jake Barton raced to a career-best 30th in the 10 km sprint. Barton missed one shot in prone (lying down trying to hit a target a little larger than a quarter from 50 meters), skied his second lap and hit every target standing (about a 4.5 inch target). This motivated him to ski a little faster and finish in the top 30 in the world. This is Barton’s third year based in Craftsbury and skiing on the GRP team.
The next weekend, Craftsbury resident Susan Dunklee finished 31st in the 7.5 km sprint (1:44 back from the winner, Hanna Oeberg from Sweden), and followed that result with a 26th in the pursuit the next day. In the pursuit, a racer’s starting time is based on their time back from the winner in the sprint race. Dunklee started 1:44 behind Oeberg in the pursuit. The winner of the pursuit is the first one across the line. Oeberg was caught by two Norwegians who missed fewer shots on the second day. For each shot missed, a skier has to ski a penalty loop which takes about 25-30 seconds.
On the third weekend of racing in Hochfilzen, Austria, former GRPer Clare Egan raced to 10th place in the 7.5 km sprint, missing a single shot. Had she hit all targets she would have been in the top three. In the 12.5 km pursuit the following day, Egan missed two prone shots in the first stage, but she skied hard and kept her composure, missing only one shot in the next three shooting stages to finish 13th. Egan began shooting in 2014 while skiing for the GRP and training with Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker.
In the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup, the GRP has sent two athletes to Europe, Adam Martin and Caitlin Patterson. In Davos, Switzerland on December 13, Patterson raced to a top 30 performance in the 10 km freestyle (skate) competition. She was the fifth American skier on a strong U.S. team, where veteran Rosie Brennan (24:49) and 22-year old Hailey Swirbul placed 1st and 3rd, respectively. Martin, who has only skied in a few World Cup races over the past three years, started conservatively in 49th at the first time split in the 15 km race. He moved up to 41st midway through the race and finished 44th. Caitlin’s brother, Scott Patterson, was the top U.S. finisher in 16th. Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov won in 32:46.