Biathlon National Team Trials with Mikayla Maier
Editor's note: Welcome back to the third installment of our Crosscut Elite Team Blog! This time we hear from Mikayla Maier, who competed in the IBU Cup USA Biathlon National Team Trials in Jericho, VT in December.
IBU Cup USA Biathlon National Team Trials
Three Crosscut Elite Team athletes (Luke Brown, Kelly Kjorlien, and myself) headed out to rural Vermont for the first set of International Biathlon Union (IBU) USA National Team Trials at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. From Burlington, Craftsbury is about an hour and a half drive deep into the rural Vermont countryside. Many winding and even dirt roads later we arrived at the Center. The many housing options, dining hall, full gym and the 110km of Cross Country ski trails are just a few of the amenities of the amazing venue.
The week began as usual for the week of any other set of trials races. Early in the week we went on some easy skis to shake the legs out after a long travel day and get acclimated to the new range and race course. Craftsbury has a huge snowmaking operation, so even though initially there wasn’t much natural snow, the race course was already in great shape. With that said, the snow gods were nice to us and brought us 8-10” of fresh snowfall in the two days leading up to the first trials race.
Women's National Team Trials consisted of three races over four days. Two Sprint races of 7.5km with two shooting bouts (prone and standing, or PS) and a Mass Start of 12.5km with four shooting bouts (PPSS). US Biathlon announced in the days leading up to the trials that they would take the top two athletes using a best two out of three race format. Those two top American athletes would then head to Europe to race in the IBU Cup from this set of trials.
After the snow, the arctic cold set in over Vermont, leading to below zero temperatures for the first two races. IBU rules allow races to occur with temps as low as -4F, with wind chills of up to -20F, which is almost exactly where we stood as the first athletes set off on course. Extremely cold temps do not agree with me – I already got a bad case of frostbite on my fingers earlier this season – so my body did not respond well at all and my shooting failed me too. Still, I lived to fight another day. Race two brought the Mass Start, which is always fun, starting with a large group of strong ladies. We had similar temps again and, while my shooting greatly improved, my body felt as though it was still frozen in carbonite. With that said, I was still able to move up in the standings, as was my teammate Kelly.
Day three, the final race of the series, and the warmth finally arrived, with temps around 20 degrees at start time. Tropical! I was finally able to put it all together as I found my skiing legs and my shooting. I had just two misses on the day, one in prone and one in standing, which was good enough for fourth on the day and fourth in the overall trials standings. Not quite enough to make it onto the National Team for Europe, but close. Most importantly, I saw and felt recognizable improvement, which gives me confidence headed into the rest of the season.
What’s next, you say? More trials beginning in late January in Fort Kent, Maine. These trials will determine the last few IBU Cup races in March and the European World Championships in February. The US Biathlon team is allowed to have more team members for the European Championships, so I’m hopeful that I can make the team then. Onward and upward!