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Studenicka ready for biathlon

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Studenicka gives biathlon a shot

Dave Price

Biathlon, which combines the skill and strength of cross country skiing and precision target shooting, is a sport that offers a unique challenge to any athlete.

Just consider, athletes must negotiate a 10- or 20-kilometer cross country ski course – that’s 6.2 or 12.4 miles – while carrying a rifle on their back, and along the way, maintain enough stamina and composure to stop and shoot at 4-1/2-inch targets from a distance of 50 meters away. Even for those who are fit enough to ski faster than their opponent, missing targets results in penalty time that can determine winning and losing.

Nonetheless, it’s a challenge Erick Studenicka of Carson City is looking forward to taking up when the National Guard West Regional Biathlon Championships are held in West Yellowstone, Mont. on Dec. 10-14.

“Ever since I saw it for the first time, I’ve been fascinated by the sport,” said Studenicka, who is the Public Affairs Specialist for the Nevada National Guard. “I mean, you have to ask yourself, what other sport do you see athletes with rifles on their back?”

Studenicka, 37, will represent the Nevada National Guard in the West Regional 10K biathlon event and will be shooting to qualify for the national finals in February, 2004.

He is an experienced endurance athlete who ran a personal best time of 31 minutes, 48 seconds for 10,000 meters for the Sonoma State University track and field program in 1988, and more recently, he has made five trips to Lincoln, Neb. to run in the National Guard Marathon. But having only competed in one winter biathlon previously, he’s still a Biathlon novice.

“Experience is really important,” Studenicka said. “You can’t go out too fast, otherwise you will pay for it later in your shooting. And one of the biggest challenges is knowing how much to let up coming into the range and how much time to take between shots.”

Carrying a .22 caliber bolt action rifle, which weighs 3.5 kilograms or about 8 pounds, for 6 to 12 miles is a considerable challenge in itself. And then you must stop at the range twice to shoot at targets in prone and standing positions.

“I’d say it’s probably the most difficult sport in that the two disciplines are polar opposites. You have cross country skiing, which is all aerobic, as opposed to shooting, which is strictly precision and accuracy,” Studenicka said.

He found the sport appealing when he watched the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.

“I saw three biathlon events in Salt Lake City,” Studenicka said. “The speed at which they ski and their speed and accuracy in which they shoot is pretty amazing. They’re so fast, it’s like they have an automatic rifle. And it’s rare for them to miss more than once.”

The Auburn Ski Club, located next to Boreal Ski Area, has a Biathlon range and also hosts the 10th Mountain Division Biathlon in April (held in honor of the famed mountain and winter warfare division from World War II). Studenicka’s only previous Biathlon competition was at the Auburn Ski Club event, where he finished third in the 9-kilometer Expert’s Race.

Now, he’s looking forward to the National Guard event at West Yellowstone.

“The lack of snow so far is going to be a disadvantage to me,” he said. “I’ve been able to do some roller skiing and I was able to get in some shooting over Thanksgiving at the home made range at my parents’ place, but that’s been about it. I won’t be in top shape, but it should be a lot of fun.”

Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal