Jon Arntson

January 1, 2024

USBA Trials for World Junior and Youth Championship Recap

Athletes came to Mt. Itasca from all over the United States to compete for precious spots on the US JY Teams that will compete in Poland and Estonia in February. Tim Burke, the United States Biathlon Association’s Director of Athlete Development, noted that he drove to Grand Rapids on December 26th through a driving rain.

“Thanks to the event organizers and all of the volunteers for their heroic efforts in pulling off this trials event,” Burke said. “With the challenging weather, I was doubtful that we would be able to race.”

Athletes, volunteers and coaches pitch in to repair the trails (Credit: Emma Stertz)

The volunteers at Mt. Itasca rallied with biathlon coaches, families and athletes to shore up thin spots on the trail via sled and shovel. Burke was surprised at what they accomplished. “Not only were we able to race,” he added, “but we had good conditions and a completely fair trials.”

Men shooting in Saturday's pursuit race (Credit: Roy Kjorlien)

Over 80 athletes competed in the three-day series of races. Top performers included Vermont’s Hannah Chipman besting Dolcie Tanguay from Maine in 2 of 3 races to claim top honors among the Junior Women. Elias Soule of Alaska turned in dominant performances for the Youth Men, winning the first day’s Sprint by over a minute, and claiming the second day’s pursuit race by over 15 seconds. Van Ledger of Lake Placid, NY, had the most consistent races among the Junior Men, winning the first day’s sprint and turning in fourth and second place finishes in the other two races. Among the Youth Women, two Massachusetts competitors—Mirra Payson and Alexandria Taylor—battled it out for top honors with Idaho’s Molly Maybach, with each one claiming a race.

Matej Cervenka glides his way to victory in Sunday's Sprint (Credit: Roy Kjorlien)

Several Midwest biathletes competed. Rebounding from a disappointing performance in Saturday’s Pursuit, Matej Cervenka of Grand Rapids put together an outstanding race to claim victory in Sunday’s final Sprint Race, besting Ledger by just 2.7 seconds. Based upon his Trials performance, Cervenka will be representing the US at the Youth & Junior World Championships in Estonia, along with Duluth biathlete Alexandra Rud. Evelyn Hudrlik of Forest Lake, MN, had the best overall result of the weekend among Midwest Youth athletes, and qualified for the United States’ Junior IBU Cup and Junior Open European Championships roster.

Hannah Chipman takes aim on the range in Sunday's Sprint (Credit: Roy Kjorlien)

“This was our largest trials event to date, with 80 competitors,” Burke noted. “We look forward to building on this momentum in the future.”