Fort Kent embraces US National Biathlon Championships

4 weeks ago

FORT KENT, Maine – Hundreds on Friday came to the Fort Kent Outdoor Center for the first day of the 2024 US Biathlon National Championships. About 145 athletes participated in the event, which involves skiing and rifle target shooting. 

And while unseasonably warm temperatures and low levels of snow canceled local events like the 2024 Can-Am Crown sled dog race, recent snowfall coupled with the Fort Kent Outdoor Center’s ability to create snow helped ensure that the event would carry on. The Friday sprint race went on as planned, however unexpectedly cold temperatures in the morning pushed all events one hour later.

In the senior men category of the sprint race, Jake Brown of Vermont, whose home club was the Craftsbury Biathlon Club, came in first with a total time of 28:39.3. In the Junior Men category, Thoreson Sheppard of Montana, who was racing with Altius, finished first with a total time of 32:59.5.

FORT KENT, Maine — March 22, 2024 — Sean Doherty of Vermont, who has participated in the 2014, 2018, and 2022 Olympic games, fires a shot during the US National Biathlon Championships in Fort Kent. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

In the senior women category, Deedra Irwin of Wisconsin, who raced with the National Guard, came in first with a total time of 27:11.2. For Junior Women, Hannah Chipman of Vermont, racing with the Fort Kent Outdoor Center, came in first with a total time of 31:36.5. 

In the youth men category, Eric Anderson of Minnesota, racing with the Bluff Country Biathlon/MN Biathlon, came in first with a total time of 28:04.1. In the U17, or under 17 years old, boys category, Grayson Melocik of Alaska, racing with the Anchorage Biathlon Club, came in first with a total time of 21:27.3.

For the youth women category, Paige Fieldhoue of Vermont, racing with the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club, came in first with a total time of 25:48.9. And in the U17 girls category, Anine Haugen Tverbekkmo of Norway, racing with Ostre Toten Skilag, came in first with a total time of 26:04.2.

The pursuit competition is set for Saturday and relay races will be held on Sunday, the final day of the event. Scores are available via the website fkocresults.com. The page also includes a link for people to watch a live stream of the event online.

Jack Gierhart, President and CEO of the US Biathlon, said on Friday that while it was chilly in the morning, the overall weather and event was “beautiful.”

Gierhart, who began serving in the role of CEO about a year and a half ago, said this was his first time at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center and commended the work done by the center’s volunteers and Carl Theriault, Chief of Competition and a member of the FKOC board of directors.

“Carl does a wonderful job energizing this venue and keeping things going,” he said. “It’s got a bunch of great local athletes.”

Sean Doherty of Vermont, who has experience competing in the 2014, 2018, and 2022 olympic games and was also on the last seven world championship teams, said after the morning sprint that he has been to the FKOC in the past and that he enjoys competing in Fort Kent.

“I used to do a couple summer ski camps with the Maine Winter Sports Center back in the day, and I raced here a few times over the years,” Doherty said. “I really enjoy this venue. I enjoy these trails, and it’s fun to have some winter conditions.”

Doherty said he is often on tour all winter for the World Cup, and that the national biathlon is a great opportunity to see fellow athletes.

“It’s fun to see a bunch of different people, and some of the younger athletes,” he said. “It’s a great event.”

Tara Geraghty-Moats of Vermont, who has experience competing internationally for the United States in ski jumping, Nordic combined, cross country and biathlon skiing, said that she is normally on the road from November through March, so the biathlon is a nice opportunity to compete in front of friends and family at a domestic venue.

“It is amazing to have a real winter up here,” she said of the weather in Fort Kent. “It was a really warm winter and we struggled with a lot of snow issues, so to have a real winter and to have it be cold, it was really nice, although I’m sure a lot of the volunteers froze their toes today.”

Gierhart concluded that his first time in Fort Kent was positive.

“The community here is really welcoming to these events and to the athletes,” he said. “We were at a grocery store yesterday getting stuff for dinner, and people were excited to have us in and welcomed us. It’s a great, great community to be a part of.”