Going into this weekends Regional Cadet Biathlon held here in Sault Ste Marie Cassandra Breckenridge stated “I will be focusing on my shooting and hill technique”. Cassandra of the local 2310 Army Cadets is working hard to again qualify to advance to the National Cadet Biathlon that she has competed in twice before. Good shooting is important because depending on the type of the race skied penalties of one minute are added onto your ski time or the skier will have to ski one penalty loop. At this weekends races which are held at the Algoma Rod and Gun Club it will be the first time cadets in Cassandra’s age group to be firing standing, instead of the more stable position of prone.
Simon Becket who will be competing this weekend and is also part of the 2310 Army Cadets Biathlon team. “My focus has been on standing shooting because it is going to be a challenge, as I average one target for five shots with the occasional 3 for 5”. “Hill climbing technique also because of Stockers Hill which is quite big and will affect your race if you do not know how to go up a hill”, Simon stated. “
The two other 2310 Army Cadet competing this weekend are Kaylee Marcel and Seth Mason with their goals of also being the 20 cadets to represent Ontario and the National Cadet Biathlon.
The challenging Rod and Gun Club ski course which is the only Biathlon Canada’s, Nationally approved course in Ontario, starts getting prepped for skiing in November. Major Pierre Breckenridge who oversees the local course provided the details involved in maintaining and preparing the course. Volunteers brush saw the season’s two to three feet high growth which can protrude through the ski trail snow and affect the skier’s race times.
Once the first snow has arrived their snow machine is used to pack snow and that is followed by the rough groomer and fill in holes as this is a natural course. Once there is a four to six inch base the snow machine tow behind hydraulic groomer is used to level and even out the wavy bumps. Once the course is ready the Soo Finnish Ski Club will bring in a big groomer to get the ski trail packed and set. The process of the snow machine hydraulic groomer is repeated after snow falls and when large amounts of snow which can be common here in the Sault, the big groomer is again brought in which significantly reduces the time complete the course.
Some of the course goes through swampy areas and even with the colder -20 deg Celsius weather there is water running under the packed ski trail which presents its own challenges for grooming and maintenance. The seven year old snow vehicle used for grooming was purchased using a Trillium Grant and will soon need to be replaced as the repair bills to keep the machine operational are getting significant are bore by the local 2310 Army Cadets. It is hoped that grant funding can be secured in the near future to replace the older machine with a ATV that would also be equipped with tracks so as to use it year round.
The top male and female 140 athletes are aged 12 to 18 years of age and will be represented their communities from across Ontario when they are here for the Regional Cadet Biathlon which the public is invited to attend. They all have their sights set to participate in this Olympic-style competition which consists of athlete’s cross-country skiing 1-2 km loops through the challenging terrain of Sault Ste Marie and shooting .22-calibre rifles at falling-plate targets in the range stadium.
The best combined skiing time and shooting scores will determine who will make up Team Ontario and advance to the fourth stage of the Canadian Cadet Organization National Cadet Biathlon held in Brookvale, PEI, March 7th to 11.