Egan, Schommer claim mass start wins at US National Biathlon Rollerski Championships

Locals also fare well in first stage of US Olympic Team qualifying
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 2:38 PM EDT
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JERICHO, Vt. (WCAX) - The Summer Olympics are over, but we only have to wait 6 months for the next Olympics! The first two Americans to clinch a spot for Beijing were at Camp Ethan Allen in Jericho this weekend, along with a host of other athletes to compete in the US National Biathlon Rollerski Championships.

Clare Egan and Barton native Susan Dunklee are both headed back to the Olympics after qualifying via multiple top 12 finishes on the world cup circuit last Winter. But that did not stop the US and Craftsbury Green Racing Project teammates from duking it out in the first of a series of qualifying events that will eventually fill out the remainder of the Olympic team. The Maine native Egan would end up edging Dunklee out in Sunday morning’s mass start, as she shot clean in the fourth and final round on the range while Dunklee missed a couple and had to add a pair of penalty loops. Fellow Craftsbury biathlete Kelsey Dickinson was third, while Rutland native Chloe Levins was fourth.

“Today my strategy was to really try to stay in control and shoot well,” Egan said after the race. “You know, it’s 25 seconds per miss basically with the penalty loop, so I needed to shoot well and I did, so I’m very pleased with my performance.”

“I had a great duel with my teammate Clare Egan,” Dunklee added. “She got me in the end but just we train together, we have a long history together, and it was just really cool to be able to work together today.”

Over on the men’s side, it was another good showing from the locals, but they weren’t quite as dominant. Hinesburg resident and member of the Vermont Army National Guard team Leif Nordgren hopes to earn a spot on his third straight Olympic team. The familiarity with the course probably helped a bit Sunday, but Nordgren’s shooting not quite where he wanted it to be as he’d finish third.

His national guard teammate Sean Doherty of Center Conway, New Hampshire would take advantage of that shooting, going clean over the final round to pass Nordgren and take second.

But it was a midwesterner who ruled the day in the mass start: Paul Schommer would jump out to an early lead and cruise to the victory. It’s his first ever national title and he hopes the start of a good season.

“I was kind of thinking about how I always wanted to win a national championship, but I was actually thinking about all the people who had helped me get to where I am today,” Schommer said. “So this one goes out to all the people that have helped me along the way, both in skiing back in Wisconsin, in college in Duluth, Minnesota, and now in USBA and Crosscut out in Bozeman, Montana.”

“Although it doesn’t feel maybe that hot, for us, it’s really hot especially in the boots and helmet and all that stuff,” Doherty said of Sunday’s conditions. “And so you just try to manage your pace and manage overheating basically which is one of the toughest things because that adds quite a bit of fatigue and stress to your heart rate as you come in on the mat. So it’s a finer line, even than in the Winter, to get that pace right, which is really tough.”

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