by Eric Hanson
NOVE MESTO, CZECH REPUBLIC – Craftsbury Green Racing Project (GRP) biathletes Clare Egan and Susan Dunklee combined with Joanne Reid and Deedra Irwin to finish a historic sixth in the IBU World Cup relay on March 4.
Susan Dunklee hit all five targets in first shooting stage and left the range in first place. She had to use two spare rounds in the standing stage of shooting, dropping back to sixth but only 10 seconds behind the leader when she tagged off to Joanne Reid. Reid kept Team USA in sixth and tagged to Clare Egan. Egan skied fast and shot well, needing only one spare round and moved the team up to second place, just 6.6 seconds from first. In the final leg, Deedra Irwin hung on to keep the U.S. close. The sixth-place finish is the best result for a World Cup Women’s Relay since 1994.
On March 12, Susan Dunklee landed an eighth-place finish in the 7.5 km sprint. In an interview with U.S. Biathlon, Dunklee reflected that “there’s a reason biathlon is such a compelling sport to follow. It’s dramatic and the unpredictability adds to its appeal. We did two identical races one week apart: the same format, the same course, and the same competitors. Last week I placed 91st and this week I placed eighth. I didn’t try any less hard last week or approach this week with any more professionalism. We love it because it is challenging. The highs are that much sweeter after overcoming the lows.” The result was Dunklee’s best of the year.
Two days later, on March 14, Dunklee paired up with Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.) to place third in the single mixed relay. Dunklee hit every target in first prone stage and led leaving the range ahead of Switzerland’s Elisa Gasparin and Sweden’s Linn Persson. She needed three spares in the standing stage and tagged off to Doherty in sixth place, 11.8 seconds off the lead. Doherty moved the twosome back to third at the next exchange. Dunklee only needed a single spare in her last stage, moving the team up to second in the final exchange. Doherty kept the team close using two extra rounds with the team finishing in third behind Sweden and Norway.
Not to be outdone, Craftsbury GRP biathletes Clare Egan and Jake Brown propelled the U.S. mixed relay team to a sixth-place finish with Joanne Reid (Grand Junction, CO) and Leif Nordgren (Hinesbury, Vt.). There were 25 teams in the race.