FARGO, N.D. - The North Dakota National Guard Biathlon Team spent much of the past week at their first event of the season. The team of six, along with their Guardsman-coach, took part in the All Regions Snow Camp in West Yellowstone, Mont.

The National Guard Bureau-sponsored biathlon event is tailored toward novice biathletes, giving them the opportunity for instruction and practice on skiing techniques and marksmanship under the guidance of national-level coaches. The camp's final day featured a practice race.

"This was the first year an early season nationwide training camp has been held," said Spc. Jordan R. Becker, of Devils Lake, N.D., North Dakota National Guard biathlon coach. "It was a great opportunity for our experienced biathletes to get back into the swing of things. We were also able to introduce a couple of new athletes to the sport before the start of the competition season. The lessons learned at the snow camp are going to come into play when our team attempts to defend our title this year."

Last January, the North Dakota National Guard's biathlon team took first out of 19 teams in a regional competition, and then went on to win the national competition in the 22.5 kilometer relay.

A 6 kilometer practice race Sunday gave the team a chance to experience the combination of skiing and marksmanship before the biathlon competition season officially begins.

"This was a great start to what promises to be a solid season for the North Dakota National Guard biathlon team," said Lt. Col. Dave Skalicky, the North Dakota National Guard's competitive sports coordinator. "Our best performers were the father-son combination of Sgt. 1st Class Kent Pulst and Spc. Brandon Pulst, both placing in the top 20. Sgt. Hilary Mehrer and myself are returning biathletes after completing our recent deployment to the Balkans and missing last season.

"Our two novices did an amazing job for just being introduced to the sport of biathlon this trip. Warrant Officer Adam Waldo recently completed flight training as a UH-60 (Black Hawk) pilot and Sgt. Adam Walsvik was the North Dakota National Guard's enlisted winner of the 2010 Best Warrior Competition. The quality of athletes on the team is truly impressive. Our next challenge is to try to win the Central Regions in January."

Sunday's practice race set the team up well for that goal, with Kent and Brandon Pulst, of Penn, N.D., placing 8th and 19th in the men's division with respective times of 29 minutes, 8 seconds and 33 minutes, 57 seconds. Mehrer, of Bismarck, N.D., placed 10th in the women's division with a time of 57 minutes, 10 seconds, and Skalicky, also of Bismarck, earned 40th place with a time of 43 minutes, 36 seconds. Walsvik, of Hazen, N.D., and Waldo, of Warwick, N.D., are new to biathlon but still performed well. Walsvik placed 47th with a time of 51 minutes, 36 seconds and Waldo placed 53rd with a time of

The biathlon competitions promote athleticism and National Guard pride while giving Guardsmen the opportunity to train and represent their states. The team's next competition will be Jan. 13-15 at the Central Regional Biathlon Races at Camp Ripley, Minn.

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Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about 75 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that's more than four times the national average.

Page last updated Wed December 15th, 2010 at 17:41