FARGO, N.D. (Army News Service, Jan. 14, 2010) -- The North Dakota National Guard Biathlon Team has repeated last year's championship win and were named the Central Region Biathlon champions, held at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn., Jan. 12-16, giving the team an opportunity to defend their national title in March.

The three-man relay team of Capt. Eric Nordgren, of Duluth, Minn., 2nd Lt. Blake Hillerson, of Fargo, N.D., and Sgt. 1st Class Kent Pulst, of Penn, N.D., took top honors in the relay team portion of the competition for the second straight year. Hillerson grabbed first place in the individual part of the contest in a repeat of last year's regional biathlon results.

The team placed first out of 19 teams at the race, which combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, and Hillerson defeated 67 competitors in the individual contest. The teams that competed this year came from 11 different states.

In the relay competition, each team member completes one circuit of the relay, which consists of skiing a 7.5-kilometer loop before engaging five 50-meter targets with a rifle from the prone position using eight rounds. Any targets missed require the competitor to do a 150-meter penalty lap.

After engaging the targets, competitors race another 7.5 kilometer loop to arrive back at the shooting range for five more targets, this time in the standing position. After they finish firing, they must do one final loop then tag the next team member to begin their circuit.

"We pride ourselves on being a good shooting team, and that is what the relays came down to. We kept ourselves out of the penalty loop and that pretty much dictated the results," said Hillerson.

The team consisted of nine North Dakota Soldiers and Airmen, and is coached by Spc. Jordan Becker. The team includes Sgt. Adam Walsvik, of Hazen, N.D.; Sgt. Matthew McKinney, of Horace, N.D.; Maj. Jon Wutzke, of Fargo, N.D; Spc. Brandon Pulst, of Penn, N.D.; and Lt. Col. David Skalicky, of Bismarck, N.D.; in addition to Nordgren, Hillerson and Pulst.

The North Dakota Biathlon Team will have a chance to defend their national title when they attend the 2011 Chief of the National Guard Bureau Championships, being held in Vermont in March.