JERICHO, Vt., - National Guardsmen from 24 states competed in their respective Regional Biathlon Competitions at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont. Biathlon consists of target shooting and ski racing. Competitors, ranging from novice to master, are divided into west, central, and east regions.
"Usually we have regionals at different locations, but this year they didn't have any snow in Minnesota, so they decided to consolidate the entire country," said U.S. Army Col. Robert Gingras, the chief of competition for the event. "They're all racing today rather than racing separate regionals."
The regionals consisted of two sprint races each for the men and women's categories. The men complete three laps adding up to ten kilometers, shooting five shots while prone after the first lap, five shots while standing after the second lap, then finishing on the third lap. The woman's is the same but the distance is only 7.5 kilometers.
"It's pretty aerobically challenging," said Spc. Joshua McDougal, a Vermont National Guard Biathlon Team member and infantryman assigned to Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain). "I come from cross country running and track and field background, so I know what aerobics are about, but it uses a different muscle group for sure. So that was the biggest challenge for me."
The challenge gives current National Guardsmen an opportunity to develop as athletes and to improve in biathlon, while also inviting biathletes to join the guard.
"Our number one mission is to develop athletes that have enough potential to make the next level within the U.S. Biathlon Association," said Staff Sgt. Sarah Lehto, head coach for the National Guard Biathlon Program. "Our goal is to develop them to the level where they can compete internationally and be absorbed by the USBA to be a member of their national team."
The training and competing gives goals for the guardsmen that also allows them to develop in other areas crucial for Soldiers.
"Coming out here giving yourself something to shoot for definitely gives you an edge in discipline and fitness," said McDougal. "Alpha Company being a mountain unit there is definitely a lot of carryovers to what we do on a normal drill weekend."