FORT KENT — Germany was perfect in more ways than one in Friday’s women’s 7.5K sprint at the 10th Mountain Center.
Not only did three German women take up the three spots on the World Cup Biathlon podium, gold medalist Andrea Henkel was flawless on the range.
That proved crucial in Henkel’s first-place run of 23 minutes, 20.0 seconds over 4.7 miles, as runner-up Miriam Gossner, who covered the race in 23:30.9, missed twice.
Magdalena Neuner rounded out the top three in 23:35.8, while Sara Studebaker of Boise, Idaho, was the top American finisher in 17th place in 24:46.4.
This was the second time in as many weeks that Studebaker has enjoyed a strong finish in the sprint, coming off a 14th-place effort in Presque Isle last weekend, the highest for a U.S. biathlete.
“I feel like my skiing is really good right now, and today I guess I didn’t feel amazing on skis, but that’s to be expected,” said Studebaker.
Studebaker was amazing on the range, weathering sub-zero wind chills just fine while not missing a single target.
“It wasn’t too windy when I came in. I guess I got kind of lucky,” she admitted.
Studebaker’s high finish means she’ll start just under a minute and a half after Henkel in Saturday’s pursuit.
Henkel wound up posting her first win of the World Cup season while making the podium for the sixth time.
She believes the trails Fort Kent features are more difficult than those in Europe.
“I think it’s the most difficult,” she said, also referring to a tough uphill early in the race.
“You need to be warmed up for sure,” Studebaker added.
Even though Gossner wound up missing two shots — both from the standing position — she had plenty of reasons to smile after her run.
“I’m very happy with my race today, I felt really good on the shooting range,” Gossner said.
The wind had started to pick up a bit by the time Gossner entered her second shooting station.
“The shooting range was very difficult today,” she said.
The competitors shot twice, once from the prone position and once from the standing position while skiing three 2.5-kilometer loops.
The Germans certainly have had plenty of depth in the sport of biathlon over the years, and it showed Friday, particularly with their fast skiing.
“It’s a really good course for us, it’s a really good course for the fast skier,” Neuner said. “I’m in good shape, today was a really good race for me.”
Henkel, Gossner and Neuner had no trouble with Friday’s cold conditions, using bright pink athletic tape which Gossner called the team’s good-luck charm.
Henkel improved her spot in the world rankings, as she came into Fort Kent in third and earned 60 Cup points with her victory, moving her closer to Sweden’s Helena Ekholm and Kaisa Makarainen of Finland.
Ekholm, who won the sprint race in Presque Isle, was 22nd Friday. Makarainen was eighth.
Action resumes Saturday with the pursuit competitions, 12.5K (7.75 miles) for the men and 10K (6.2 miles) for the women. Mass start races will be held Sunday, 15K (9.3 miles) for the men and 12.5K for the women.