In the biathlon world, the individual competition is known as a shooter’s race. And in the biathlon world, Grace Boutot is known best as a shooter.
On Thursday, while competing in the IBU Biathlon Youth and Junior World Championships in Canmore, Alberta, Boutot showed off that skill and parlayed nearly perfect shooting into a silver medal in the youth division.
“She’s a very, very disciplined shooter, an excellent shot, one of the best in the whole country if you look at all our athletes,” assessed Max Cobb, the executive director of U.S. Biathlon and one of the founders of the Maine Winter Sports Center.
The finish was a defining moment for the 17-year-old from Fort Kent and the Maine Winter Sports Center, for which she competes.
Boutot’s was the highest ever girls finish for the MWSC program at the junior Worlds, which features the top biathletes under age 18.
Lanny Barnes of Durango, Colo., another MWSC athlete, finished third in the same event in 2002 and won a silver medal in a relay that year.
Boutot finished second to Yan Zhang of China, who finished the 10-kilometer course in 35 minutes, 13.7 seconds. Boutot was 1:35.9 behind.
In the individual competitions, athletes return to the range four times, shooting five shots during each stage.
Vladimir Cervenka, the U.S. junior national coach, said it’s essential to shoot well in the competition because misses are more costly than they are in other races.
“Each miss you get [assessed] a penalty minute, rather than a penalty loop that takes approximately 25 seconds [to complete],” Cervenka said.
Cobb, who remained in Maine at the U.S. Biathlon office, said Boutot’s performance was a pleasant surprise.
“I don’t think even Grace was thinking about winning a medal today,” Cobb said Thursday. “Top 10 was something we were all thinking, but she had a terrific race. She skied well and shot outstanding.”
Boutot missed only one shot, during the first prone stage, and hit 19 of 20 targets. Her only miss occurred when her finger bumped the trigger too early, before she was ready to shoot.
Cervenka said Boutot was glowing after her performance.
“She was really like Alice in Wonderland all day,” Cervenka said. I think it will take a little while for her to realize what she really did.”
The Maine Winter Sports Center began its effort to promote winter sports and a healthy lifestyle in 1999, and Cobb said Boutot’s result illustrates what Maine-based athletes can accomplish.
“It’s exciting for the foundation and the Maine Winter Sports Center project and concept,” Cobb said. “It doesn’t happen without families and coaches and facilities and all of that.”
Cervenka said Boutot’s result should buoy both the athlete and her home community and program.
“First of all, it’s a great motivator for Grace herself, and for the program as a whole it’s very important,” Cervenka said. “She should be the role model for other kids, and that’s what the Maine Winter Sports Center is all about.”
Boutot began her championship meet in style, but isn’t through yet: She returns to action today in the 6-kilometer sprint, as does teammate Hilary McNamee of Fort Fairfield. The 7.5-kilometer pursuit is scheduled for Sunday, with a relay on tap for Feb. 2.
Santerre to host charity ride
If you’re a snowmobile rider looking to have some fun and help out an organization that does plenty of thankless work, you might want to head to Aroostook County next weekend.
Organizers are gearing up for the fifth annual Andy Santerre Sno-Run, which will be held Feb. 7 at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center.
The event will benefit the Aroostook Mental Health Center’s Sexual Assault Service.
Santerre, a four-time NASCAR Busch North Series champ, will host several other stock car racers during the event, which features a charity ride, dinner and auction.
Santerre hasn’t forgotten his Maine roots — he’s from Cherryfield — and has remained popular with race fans not just because of his work on the track but also because he’s a genuinely nice guy.
Among the drivers who will join Santerre are Matt Kobyluck, Mike Olsen, Brian Ickler and Corey Williams.
Participants will get to mingle with Santerre and the drivers, and an autograph session is planned.
The entry fee for the charity ride is $30, while dinner and auction tickets cost $25. For more information on the event, call 498-6431.
Snow piling up at Sugarloaf
As you may have noticed, it’s been a bit snowy this winter. Best of all (for those of us who enjoy playing in all that white stuff), we’ve avoided those pesky winter rainstorms that turn our hard-earned piles of fluff into crusty, useless ice.
And while we’ve got plenty of snow on the ground here in Bangor, the news gets even better when you head north and west.
According to the folks at Sugarloaf, this winter has been even better than last year as far as snow is concerned.
During Wednesday’s most recent storm, the Carrabassett Valley resort received another 14 inches of snow, adding to a thick base already on the mountain.
In a Thursday press release Sugarloaf announced that the resort has received more than 50 inches of snow in January alone, and 127 inches since ski season began.
The result: Nine lifts were servicing 132 trails on the mountain Friday and groomers had packed all that snow (along with the machine-made snow it has also produced thus far) into a base layer that ranges from 40 to 80 inches deep.
That’s right: On some trails, you might be skiing on top of nearly seven feet of packed powder.
Sounds like a good reason to hit the slopes, if you ask me.