Rookies reflect on provincial biathlon success
By Darren Lum
Rookie junior biathletes Lillian Ramsdale and Olivia Humphries surprised everyone by capturing fourth place at the Central Region Cadet Provincial competition in Sault Ste. Marie last month.
Held from Feb. 8 to 9, the two girls represented the 1129 Haliburton Army Cadets and the Southeastern Ontario Area in the sport of biathlon, which is a hybrid sport, combining the endurance of Nordic skiing and the technical demands of marksmanship, which featured competitors from four cadet regions in Ontario.
Competitors ski a distance (dependant on category) and then arrive at a gun range, attempting to hit five targets 30 metres away, less than a Toonie in diameter. When the competitors missed their targets, they had to complete 50-metre penalty circle for each miss.
The two junior girls completed a little more than three kilometres, divided into two segments with a stop at the gun range for an attempt to hit five targets each time.
Biathlon offers a unique challenge, as each competitor must counteract the movement in the body when breathing heavily while at the gun range, lying in a prone position to shoot.
Humphries was surprised by her team finish with her good friend, Ramsdale, characterizing it as “really good.”
Ramsdale agreed with her friend and had expected the provincials to be a little more challenging than regionals where the two finished first in their relay there for their provincial berth.
At the start line, she wrote in an email, “I was feeling nervous and excited, and I was a bit worried that my hands would get too numb to shoot properly.”
Humprhies remembers taking to the start line before her race and noticed the size disparity between her and other competitors.
“Wow, these people are so much taller than me,” she said. “Their teams all had uniforms, matching.”
She adds the uniforms were form-fitting lycra suits, while the Highlands contingent wore winter coats and snow pants.
Individually Humphries had a solid day, rounding it out with a fifth place finish in the individual race, tying another competitor for the spot. She completed the 4.5-kilometre distance in 32:28.
Ramsdale said a highlight of the competition was being successful at the range, hitting her target and getting to spend time with the other cadets. She finished the 4.5-kilometre junior individual race in a time of 38:28 and earned a 13th place finish.
Among the challenges for the local cadets was the terrain of the area and the difference of power for the .22 calibre rifles compared to the air rifles they train with during the year. All of the cadets receive gun safety handling training prior to the season.
Humphries said the volume and size of hills was far greater, calling it an “eye opener” and shooting at the provincial competition provided her a new experience.
“It was very different. That’s for sure. There’s more kick. Definitely more kick. So that scared me the first time I shot it, I was like, ‘Hey, what happened? ... and then when I opened it the [hot] case popped out it almost hit me in the face. That was scary, yeah,” she said.
The duo of Humphries and Ramsdale earned their team berth with a first place team finish at the regional competition, the 49th SEOA Biathlon Competition on Jan. 26 in Nakertok, Quebec.
Humphries also finished first at the regional competition in Quebec for her provincial berth.
The duo also made the trip from the Highlands with fellow cadet biathletes Corin Gervais, Nick Phippen and Aiden Hill also competed in the senior male category. Being the youngest in the field by a few years for these boys shows there is room to improve.
Individually, Gervais finished ninth, Phippen 14th and Hill was 21st. In the relay team event, cadets Gervais and Hill teamed up and finished 10th in the open male (15 years plus) class while Phippen and his teammate from the same region Camren Aho Jr. Finished in 15th place in open male class. Each skier completed a 4.5 kilometre distance for a combined nine kilometres. Times were combined.
Cadet Ben Rutter assisted the team as a cadet coach.
The team’s coaching staff includes cadet instructor cadres Stuart Humphries and Greg Powell. Humphries helped with Nordic skiing while Powell assisted with marksmanship.
The coaching staff with the cadets credit these biathlon successes to the foundation of Nordic skiing skills and passion for the sport from the youth programming offered by the Haliburton Highlands Nordic Trail and Ski Club Association.
Humphries’ mother Joleen said her daughter really didn’t have a choice to Nordic ski or not, having her daughter in the pull chariot carrier at Glebe Park while she conducted lessons. The first time Humphries skied was at two and she encourages anyone interested in trying biathlon to join the cadets and try it for themselves.
“It is super fun. Even if you don’t win or don’t make it to nationals it’s still an amazing experience,” she said.