The Alaska National Guard’s Pfc. Travis Cooper topped the field at the 2017 Western Regional National Guard Biathlon Competition Sprint Race Thursday, Jan. 12, at the Casper Mountain Biathlon Center. He crossed the finish line first among more than 70 biathletes representing nine states.
Participants alternated between skiing three trail loops to elevate their heart rates. In between circuits, which wound through the surrounding tree-lined hills, they transitioned to the shooting range, where they shot at targets 50 meters away, while struggling to control their breathing. Missing targets meant penalty laps – 10 km for the men and 7.5 km for the women.
Cooper has been competing in biathlon for more than a year now. He originally enlisted in the National Guard to compete for Alaska and realize his dream of cross country skiing, with his sights set on competing for the United States in the next Winter Olympics.
“Being out there on the course, I feel pretty free,” Cooper said. “Just being able to do what I love and doing what I am good at.”
In the women’s division, Oregon National Guard soldier Sgt. Rebecca Jenness competed in her first biathlon event after being on skis for only three days. She advised other beginners to fight through the pain and the frustration. “I would say just keep going,” Jenness said. “Each day gets a little bit easier. Again, I don’t have a lot of experience or practice, so, the more I do it, the better I will get.”
Competitors, both novices and veterans appreciate the camaraderie that comes with being a biathlete.
“National Guard Biathlon is a tight knit family,” Cooper said. “We really care for each other, and really look after each other. Having the support group is really encouraging.”
Sprint race results determine starting positions for the biathletes competing in the Pursuit Race on Saturday, Jan. 14.
Master Men’s Sprint Race:
1st- Omar Bermejo
Open Men’s Novice Sprint Race:
1st- Tyler Patik
Senior Men’s Sprint Race:
1st- Pfc. Travis Cooper, Alaska National Guard
2nd- Spc. Tadhg Nakada, Alaska National Guard
3rd- Maj. Daniel Morken, Utah National Guard
Youth Men’s Sprint Race:
1st- Staff Sgt. Tyler Jacobs, California National Guard
Open Women’s Novice Sprint Race:
1st- Rachel Scoresby
2nd- Jaime Turner, Utah National Guard
3rd- Brenda Frelsi
Senior Women’s Sprint Race:
1st- Capt. Barb Blanke, Utah National Guard
2nd- Sgt. Samantha Miller, Utah National Guard
3rd- Staff Sgt. Trish Rich, Utah National Guard
Sit Ski Sprint Race:
1st- Bryan Price, Casper Mountain Biathlon Club
2nd- Peter Way, Casper Mountain Biathlon Club
3rd- Christ Rasmussen, Casper Mountain Biathlon Club