Auburn Ski Club member Lexie Madigan qualifies for U.S. Youth Biathlon World Championship Team (Updated)
Laying prone on a patch of ice in Minnesota, Auburn Ski Club and Sugar Bowl Academy athlete Lexie Madigan clutches her rifle.
Temperatures are hovering around a brutal minus 1 degree on Thursday, Dec. 28, in Coleraine for the biathlon U.S. Youth and Junior World Team Trials, and as her nearly numb finger squeezes the rifle’s trigger, a round is sent toward the target down range.
Her first shot misses the mark, but the next is true, and Madigan is off on her skis again. She ended up finishing the 7.5-kilometer biathlon that day in fourth place out of the women’s youth (under 19) division, and fifth place overall with a time of 26 minutes, 43.30 seconds. She crossed the finish line 1:26.20 behind first place, Helen Wilson, of Anchorage, Alaska.
Madigan then hit the course the following day for 6 kilometers of competition and raced to a fifth place (sixth overall) with a time of 23:26.60. She finished the series ranked third in the youth division and fourth overall.
“I can’t really feel my hands, still,” Madigan said hours after finishing the series in
Coleraine, where temperatures never reached more than three degrees Fahrenheit.
“I’m just really psyched to have made the team. It’s a relief to be able to
focus on going to Europe.”
Madigan’s performance over the two days in Minnesota landed her a spot on the U.S. Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championship Team, and also on the team for the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Junior Cup #3 in Poland and the IBU Junior Open European Championships.
The U.S. Biathlon International Competition Committee announced the teams on Saturday, Dec. 30, according to a statement from TeamUSA.org, after the U.S. Youth and Junior Championship Trials were moved up from their originally scheduled days due to frigid forecasts for Saturday and Sunday. Racing cannot be started at temperatures colder than minus 4 Fahrenheit, according to IBU rules.
In a sport where results are rarely consistent and athletes spend years honing their skills, Madigan stands apart as an outlier. After only three years in biathlon, she made the team last year as a 14-year-old, according to Head Coach Glenn Jobe, but because the required age for team members is 15, Madigan wasn’t allowed to compete.
This year, as a 15-year-old, there are no such formalities keeping the youngster from representing the United States at the late February world championships in Europe.
“Lexie has been always really consistent,” Jobe said. “She’s just a very talented athlete and to have this kind of success after only four years in the sport is pretty amazing. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her and watch her be so successful.”
Madigan is currently competing in Alaska, according to Jobe, and will then compete in the Junior IBU Cup #3 on Jan. 25-27 in Duszniki-Zdroj, Poland. The IBU Junior Open European Championships will be Jan. 31-Feb 4 in Pokljuka, Slovenia, and the IBU Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championships will take place from Feb. 26-March 4 in Otepaa, Estonia.
Other local racers
Auburn Ski Club also had three other members trying to qualify for the youth and junior squads last week. Peter Carroll, 20, was on last year’s team, and after a solid first day finished fourth in the junior division and eighth overall in the 10-kilometer race with a time of 29:29.90.
Carroll would struggle with his shooting the following day, with four misses from the prone position on the 7.5-kilometer course to finish in fifth out of the junior division and 13th overall with a time of 23:32.60.
“Peter, after the first race was in really good position to make the team, and then had a poor shooting bout the second race, and that’s all it takes in biathlon,” Jobe said. “It’s a great sport because anybody on a given day can win, but if the shooting doesn’t go well it impacts your opportunities.”
Also competing for Auburn Ski Club were Nikolas Borkhart (32:12.10), who took ninth in the youth division and 14th overall on day one, and then finished with a time of 24:22.60 for 10th out of the youth division and 16th overall.
Sam Zabell was the club’s final representative and took sixth in the junior division and 19th overall in the 10-kilometer distance with a time of 34.32.80. Zabell would again finish in sixth place out of the junior division the following day with a time of 24:14.80 on the 7.5-kilometer course. Zabell has been a previous member of the U.S. team.
*This post was updated to include a quote from Lexie Madigan, provided by Sugar Bowl Academy