Team USA Youth Find Success at Liatoppen Biathlon Festival
by Sara Donatello
New Gloucester, Maine – Twenty US youth athletes traveled to Norway to compete at the Liatoppen Biathlon Festival, April 14-16, 2023. The team included 10 athletes from the Anchorage Biathlon Club and two from Unalakleet, a small village in Northern Alaska. The remaining eight athletes represented Maine, Minnesota, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts and Lake Placid, New York. Jean Paquet, Grace Gilliland and Deana Watson of Anchorage Biathlon Club, as well as Carl Theriault and Elysha Dyer of Fort Kent made up Team USA’s coaching staff.
Racing kicked off on Friday, April 14, with Team USA having three official mixed relay teams. It was a successful first day of racing as Grayson Melocik, Aidan Sands and Miya Kam-Magruder, making up Anchorage Biathlon Club 2, took first place and Elias Watson, Tristan Thrasher and Reine Soule, making up Anchorage Biathlon Club 1, took second place in the mixed 13-16 relay. The team of Alden Reardon, Vanessa Wing and Ayuu Roesch placed seventh in the mixed relay.
“This is one of the greatest events for U17 youth in biathlon and I am really happy with the behavior of our athletes and how they performed,” said Jean Paquet, Anchorage Biathlon Club Coach. “I had no idea of what to expect and did not anticipate podiums, but thought we had the potential to place well. It was fun to see these kids performing so well at such a young age.”
Team USA had continued success and came away with two more podium finishes in Saturday’s sprint races. Elias Watson (Anchorage, AK) finished third in the boys 16 sprint. Aidan Sands (Winthrop, WA) also took bronze in the boys 15 sprint.
On the final day of racing, the boys 16 had four competitors in the top 10: Jack Cashman, Noa Kam-Magruder, Gray Melocik and Elias Watson, and boys 15 had two athletes in the top 10: Aidan Sands and Tristan Thrasher.
“This was an amazing week, one these youth will not soon forget. We were able to train at another biathlon venue in Geilo for one day and drew the attention of some youth at the Geilo sport gymnasium, who walked out to the range to watch the group of Americans. I am most proud to see how our youth interacted with the Norwegians, making new friends, their attitude, team spirit and sportsmanship were gold medal standard,” said Deana Watson, Anchorage Biathlon Club Coach. “Upon our departure from the venue on Sunday, the race director, Nils Veslegard came to say goodbye and said he would love to see the US return next year. The team received shout-outs at each evening awards event and many times the announcer during the race would switch to English while talking about our athletes. A huge thank you to USBA for their help and to Maloja for making this crew stand out in amazing gear! We had many Norwegian youth asking to trade their suits for the USA ones, but not one did. They are very proud to wear the uniform, many thanks!“