Seven from Craftsbury Outdoor Center will compete in Olympics

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copyright the Chronicle February 7, 2018

 

Once again, Northeast Kingdom viewers will have local favorites to cheer on as the Winter Olympics open this week in South Korea.

Although not all of them were born and raised locally, the Craftsbury Outdoor Center will send seven members of its Green Racing Project team to the Olympic games in Nordic skiing and biathlon.

The Green Racing Project is a group of athletes who not only train together in Craftsbury, but also spend their spare time bringing healthy lifestyle and environmental initiatives to the wider community. They also work with young skiers and rowers through youth league programs and local camps and races.

Biathlon events will run from February 9 through February 25 in PyeongChang.

Biathlon racers power through laps on a cross-country course before flying into the stadium and taking five shots at a target 50 yards away.

Every missed shot means a penalty lap around a small track near the shooting range.

“It’s a crazy sport,” Susan Dunklee of Barton told the Chronicle last summer.

Ms. Dunklee made her first Olympic biathlon try in Sochi, Russia, in 2014, and she’ll be back in PyeongChang this year.

“First it’s hurry, hurry, hurry, trying to ski as fast as you can. And then you have to settle into this zen-like concentration for the shooting.”

Ms. Dunklee started out as a cross-country skier. She always excelled at the skiing part. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, she would have been in the medals except for a missed shot.

“But there were a lot of people who were within 22 seconds of a medal,” she said. “The what-if game doesn’t get you far.”

So she decided to change that.

“Since then, I’ve focused almost exclusively on my shooting,” she told a crowd in Barton last summer.

She even worked with a sports psychologist to get over her mental barrier to squeezing off five shots at top speed.

Her work has paid off. Last year, she stood on the podium at the biathlon world championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, with a silver medal around her neck.

It was the first time an American woman ever earned a medal in the biathlon world championships. No American woman so far has earned a medal of any color in Olympic biathlon.

Ms. Dunklee’s silver medal automatically earned her a slot on the U.S. biathlon team for the PyeongChang games. In fact, she was the first American woman to qualify in any sport.

For other biathletes, Olympic trials began in late summer.

Besides Ms. Dunklee, who is now from Craftsbury, the Green Racing Project’s biathlon delegation will include first-timers Kaitlynn Miller of Craftsbury Common, Clare Egan of Maine, and Emily Dreissigacker of Morrisville, whose sister Hannah represented the United States in biathlon at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi.

Ms. Dreissigacker learned to ski not long after she learned how to walk. But as the daughter of Olympic rowers Judy Geer and Dick Dreissigacker, now the owners of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, she initially chose rowing as her sport.

Her official bio says that like a lot of her team members, Ms. Dreissigacker went to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Dartmouth will send 15 of its graduates to the winter Olympics this year, according to a web page touting its winter sports program.

After college Ms. Dreissigacker joined the Green Racing Project’s rowing team at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center until she decided to switch back to skiing.

Then she tried biathlon, the sport that took her sister Hannah to the Sochi Olympics, and quickly got hooked.

Clare Egan of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, is another biathlete from the Green Racing Project. She ran cross-country and track in college at Wellesley, and started the Wellesley ski team.

She joined the Craftsbury Green Racing Project in June 201l and competed in her first biathlon event in 2013.

According to her bio on the Green Racing Project site, she was a member of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 world championship teams. Now she’s headed for PyeongChang with the 2018 Winter Olympic Team.

Trials for cross-country skiers began in the fall.  Their events in PyeongChang will run from February 10 to 25.

Ida Sargent, the Green Racing Team’s other Olympic veteran, is from Orleans. She has been solidly among the top American Nordic skiers this year, but didn’t officially qualify for the U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team until January 13.

In Sochi, she finished nineteenth in the freestyle sprint and thirty-second in the 10k classic individual.

This season, she placed sixth in the freestyle sprint in Davos, Switzerland. She also finished third in the classic sprint last year in the pre-Olympic World Cup test at PyeongChang.

Ms. Sargent turned 30 in January. Speaking in Barton last summer, she said she sees herself skiing another two or three years at most before moving on to a new career.

Kaitlynn Miller of Elmore will be making a first Olympic try this year. Ms. Miller grew up skiing with the Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club before going to Bowdoin College in Maine.

On its website, Bowdoin calls her the finest Nordic skier the college has produced.

Since graduating, Ms. Miller has spent four years racing with the Green Racing Project. She’s represented the United States on the World Cup twice, once on the Ski Tour Canada in 2015, and once last season at the World Cup Finals in Quebec City.

She qualified for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her third-place ranking on the Olympic distance qualification list.

Caitlin Patterson of McCall, Idaho, also trains in Craftsbury with the Green Racing Project and will be making her first Olympic appearance.

Before moving to Craftsbury, Ms. Patterson skied for the University of Vermont, her online bio says. This winter she was national champion in four races: the 10k freestyle, freestyle sprint, the 20k classic mass start, and the classic sprint. That, along with strong results from the early season SuperTours in West Yellowstone and Silver Star, British Columbia, got her a shot at PyeongChang.

Of the 12 athletes who made up the American contingent in cross-country skiing and biathlon at the Sochi Olympics four years ago, three trained at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

“That’s a pretty remarkable statistic,” Ms. Dunklee told the Chronicle last summer.

With seven going to Korea, it’s even more true this week.

contact Elizabeth Trail at

[email protected]

 

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