Becky Abeyta

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2024 Youth and Junior World Championships Wraps Up with Solid Relay Performances

by Sara Donatello

Over the course of a week, U.S. Biathlon youth and junior athletes raced against the top biathletes from around the world in mixed relay, individual, sprint, mass start 60 and relay events at the 2024 Youth and Junior World Championships in Otepää, Estonia. 

Racing kicked off with a pair of mixed relays. The team of junior athletes, consisting of Van Ledger (Lake Placid, NY/Team Crosscut), Matej Cervenka (Grand Rapids, MN/Mt. Itasca Biathlon), Dolcie Tanguay (Fort Kent, ME/Paul Smith’s College) and Hannah Chipman (Norwich, VT/Dartmouth College), raced to 21st. Later that day, Elias Soule (Anchorage, AK/Anchorage Biathlon Club), Aiden Sands (Mazama, WA/Team Altius), Mirra Payson (Lexington, MA/HSC Biathlon) and Virginia Cobb (Westford, VT/Ethan Allen Biathlon Club) made up the 20th place youth mixed relay team. 

On February 4, Cobb and Payson, with teammates Emily Campbell (Park City, UT/Team Soldier Hollow) and Alex Taylor (Lincoln, MA/HSC Biathlon) raced in the youth women’s 10km individual. Cobb led the U.S. women in 58th, despite her eight misses. Campbell landed in 70th with Payson and Taylor on her heels in 73rd and 79th. John Lohuis (Anchorage, AK/Biathlon Alaska) landed the top U.S. youth individual finish in 51st, with fellow Anchorage, Alaska native Soule finishing 57th. Soule’s Anchorage Biathlon Club teammate, Noa Kam-Magruder (Anchorage, AK/Anchorage Biathlon Club) crossed the line in 83rd and Sands placed 95th. 

In the junior individuals the following day, Chipman and Alexandra Rud (Oslo, NOR/Duluth Biathlon) both shined on the range. Chipman shot 18 for 20 to take home the top junior finish on the day in 41st, with Rud shooting 19 for 20 and landing in 61st. Lexie Madigan (Truckee, CA/Auburn Ski Club) finished in 67th, with three misses and Tanguay raced to 78th. Ledger, with five misses, finished in 53rd. Thor Sheppard (West Yellowstone, MT/Team Altius) raced to 69th, with Cervenka and Nathan Livingood (Bethel, Maine/Fort Kent Outdoor Center) finishing in 80th and 94th. 

The youth men brought their A game in the youth men’s 7.5km sprint on February 27. Soule raced to 22nd, hitting nine of ten targets and claiming the top result of the day. Sands, missing just two shots in prone, cleaned his standing and landed in 83rd. Kam-Magruder, missing a pair of targets in both prone and standing, kept a solid pace on the course to finish in 84th. Lohuis missed just one target and crossed the line in 91st. The youth women struggled on the range, but held solid course times. Payson raced to 58th with Cobb on her tail in 61st. Taylor and Campbell finished just 25 seconds apart in 88th and 89th. 

In the junior women’s sprint on February 28, Madigan and Tanguay took the first and second best U.S. results of the day in 55th and 60th. Rud continued her streak of solid shooting, cleaning all 10 targets to finish in 61st, while Chipman, racing through sickness, crossed the line in 72nd. On the men’s side, Sheppard cleaned his prone, but missed two targets in standing, landing him in 62nd, followed by Ledger in 64th with three misses on the day. Cervenka and Livingood both shot eight for ten and finished in 78th and 82nd. 

Both youth and junior mass start 60 races took place on Leap Day, February 29. Soule was the sole U.S. youth qualifier and, despite a tough day on the range, crossed the line in 49th in the youth men’s 12km mass start 60. Madigan and Chipman were the only U.S. athletes to qualify for the junior mass start 60 races. Madigan shot a stellar 18 for 20 to land in 45th, with Chipman, who was still battling through illness, finishing 59th in the junior women’s 9km mass start 60. 

The final two days of racing on March 1 and 2, saw both youth and junior men’s and women’s relays. The youth women’s team, composed of Cobb, Payson and Campbell, kicked things off in 20th. The youth men’s team of Soule, Kam-Magruder and Sands landed in 21st; Kam-Magruder shot clean using no spare rounds. The following day, Ledger, Sheppard, Cervenka and Livingood performed well on the range, using only six spare rounds total to finish in 18th. Madigan, Tanguay, Rud and Chipman rounded out the 2024 Youth and Junior World Championships with a solid 16th place finish, falling just 14 seconds back from a top-15 finish. 
With the 2023/24 season behind them, the U.S. team enters a well-deserved rest period before summer training kicks back up. To learn more about U.S. Biathlon’s athlete development and athlete resources and, visit usbiathlon.org/athlete-resources