Ohio National Guard sports wrap
ONG Biathlon Team: Do you have what it takes?
Story by Bill Pierce, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs
COLUMBUS, Ohio (08/25/2021)
The Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team has completed a successful season, including having a member finish among the top competitors to become a member of a prestigious national-level team.
The team, a mixture of Ohio Air and Army National Guard members, participates in competitions throughout the U.S. that combine cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. In a typical season, the National Guard Bureau hosts regional competitions across the U.S. throughout the month of January. Teams that qualify by scoring highest in the time trials are invited to take part in the Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships each February.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Weemes (left) and Capt. Stephanie Duarte of the Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team take part in the relay race at the Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships Feb. 24. 2021, at Camp Ripley, Minn. The relay race has a combined team of men and women, but for scoring purposes, they raced the men’s distance of 7.5 kilometers.
However, this past season was anything but typical. Due to COVID-19 mitigation measures implemented, regional competitions were canceled, and all the teams held their own events and then forwarded the results of their time trials to the CNGB Biathlon.
Five Ohio athletes qualified to compete in the championships held at Camp Ripley Training Center in Minnesota this past February. The team consisted of Capt. Stephanie Duarte, 237th Support Battalion; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kyle Gettys, Camp Perry Joint Training Center; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Sundbury, 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade; Master Sgt. Lance Armstrong, 178th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group/125th Intelligence Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Weemes, Camp Perry Joint Training Center. Coaches were Col. Dan Long, Joint Force Headquarters; and retired Master Sgt. Bill Pifer, 200th RED HORSE Squadron.
Results from the championships determine if you are invited to be part of the prestigious All-Guard team. Only the top 15 male and top five female finishers, based on overall individual points, qualify to be a member of the 2021 All-Guard team.
Duarte brought home two silver medals as the second-place finisher in the female sprint and pursuit races at this year’s championships. She also had the honor of being named to the National All-Guard Female Biathlon Team — only the second athlete from the Ohio National Guard to ever qualify for the honor.
“I never imagined I’d make the All-Guard team,” said Duarte, the support operations officer for the 237th Support Battalion. “You are competing against amazing athletes from all over the country, with the top performers generally from snow states like Vermont, Minnesota and Utah. This level of competition motivates me and has changed how I train throughout the year. My goal is to consistently get better. I did not grow up on skis but I can grow to become better athlete each year.”
Duarte competed in her first CNGB Biathlon Championships in 2010 and has competed in seven out of the last 11 seasons.
Armstrong said it doesn’t matter if you are experienced or just starting out. Anyone interested in joining the team will find a focused group of Airmen and Soldiers determined to excel as athletes.
“A few of our members have been on the team at least 15 years,” said Armstrong, an analyst in the Ohio National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. “Our two coaches have nearly 50 years’ experience in biathlons, so they understand what it takes to succeed in this sport.”
One of the coaches, Long, is director of intelligence for the Ohio Army National Guard and a former competitor, so he knows firsthand how important physical and mental training is when preparing for a biathlon.
“Despite dealing with the constraints of COVID, the ONG Biathlon Team trained hard in northern Michigan and represented Ohio well at the CNGB Championship event. Biathlon is truly a grueling event that epitomizes the warrior spirit of fitness and marksmanship,” Long said.
The Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team consists of Airmen and Soldiers who like to ski, shoot, are in top physical condition and enjoy competing under pressure. And they don’t just train during the winter — top competitive biathletes train year-round. In the warmer months, they do a lot of running, cycling and roller skiing, which closely mimics the movement of cross-country skiing. The Vermont National Guard Biathlon Program hosted the U.S. Biathlon Summer Rollerski National Championships Aug. 7-8 at the Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vermont, which also served as the first of eight Olympic qualifiers for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to get involved with the Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team, email email@example.com.