FORT KENT, Maine — It was a gold medal-weekend for Aroostook County skiers at the U.S. National Biathlon Championships at the 10th Mountain Lodge with Grace Boutot of Fort Kent posting back-to-back top finishes in the youth women’s races and Russell Currier of Stockholm taking first place in the men’s 12.5-kilometer pursuit on Saturday.
Currier, a Maine Winter Sports Center skier, came off a disappointing seventh-place finish during Thursday’s sprint races and charged to the front of the pack Saturday in the pursuit thanks in large part to solid shooting in the range.
Boutot, also skiing for MWSC, used solid shooting to win the young women’s 7.5K pursuit in a time of 26:24.5, 4:09 ahead of second-place finisher and teammate Hilary McNamee of Fort Fairfield.
“I’d done all my homework on this one,” Currier said after his finish in 37:34.3, just a tenth of a second ahead of Dan Campbell who skis for Minnesota Biathlon.
“I did much better on the course and in the range than the other day,” Currier said. “This is what I needed.”
Currier missed five targets in four trips through the range, shooting clean in the first standing position.
Both Boutot and McNamee shot clean from the first prone position, but when Boutot missed two and McNamee three targets during the second round of shooting, it allowed Boutot to move into the lead.
From there Boutot missed only one more target and shot clean in the second standing round.
“It was a really great race and I was happy with it,” Boutot said. “When Hilary missed that third shot in the second round, I just took off.”
For each missed target the biathlete must complete one lap of a 150-meter penalty loop.
During Sunday’s 7.5K mass start race Boutot’s main challenge came from teammate Andrea Mayo of Fort Kent.
Mayo was leading Boutot for half of the race and outshot her in the range, posting three clean rounds and missing only two in the first standing position.
Boutot missed five targets on the day but did shoot clean in the second prone round.
“I caught up with Andrea a few times on the course but then she’d get ahead of me,” Boutot said. “But then I passed her and it was good to go.”
Boutot ended the race in 29:26.6, ahead of Mayo’s finish time of 30:15.9. McNamee was third in 31:15.9,
Currier had a bronze-medal race Sunday in the men’s 15K mass start, placing third for the U.S. Championships with a time of 45:28.9.
“It was OK but not good enough,” Currier said. “The skiing was there but I can’t get it back in the range [and] it’s frustrating.”
Currier was 12 for 20 in four rounds of shooting on Sunday.
The men’s mass start was won by Kevin Patzholdt of Minnesota Biathlon who posted a 45:26 time, seconds behind Canadian Patrick Cote who won the NorAm category.
“My shooting was great but my skiing was a little slow,” Patzholdt said. “I hung with Patrick for the whole race but he got me at the finish line.”
When it came to shooting over the weekend, no one could touch Tracy Barnes-Colliander who shot clean all four rounds on her way to a gold-medal finish in the women’s 10K pursuit Saturday.
It was the first clean four-round shooting race in her career.
“It was shocking,” Barnes-Colliander said. “I had to keep looking at the final target to make sure I’d really hit it.”
Colliander finished in 31:37.7, more than two minutes ahead of her twin sister and silver medalist Lanny Barnes, who missed one target in of the prone rounds but shot clean standing. A minute later Annelies Cook from the Utah Ski team crossed the finish line in third place.
Barnes was to sit out Sunday’s mass start race due to a recurring foot injury but she cheered her sister on to her second gold in as many days.
For much of the race Barnes-Colliander was alone on the 12.5K course and far ahead of her nearest competitor.
Missing just one of 20 targets in her four rounds of shooting, Barnes-Colliander finished in a time of 44.23.9.
Four minutes later Laura Spector of the U.S. Biathlon Association team crossed the line for the silver medal with Cook taking bronze in 48:31.6.
“Tracy did awesome,” coach and husband Gary Colliander said. “Out of three races this week she only missed one shot and her skiing looked much better.”
Coaching and training has a large part to do with her success, but at least one fan was taking partial credit for Barnes-Colliander’s win Sunday.
“She was wearing my boots,” said Sam Humphries, a student from North Yarmouth and member of the Southern Maine Biathlon Club. “Her boots hurt her feet so I offered her mine since we wear the same size.”
The youngster is hopeful some of that gold-medal karma rubs off.
“I’m racing in Quebec next week,” Humphries said. “I’m hoping those boots make me super fast now.”