Two female and one male guardmembers wearing Ohio flag attire pose with male coach.

Courtesy photo

Members of the Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team medaled three times in two individual races at this year’s Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships, which took place Feb. 11-17, 2022, at Camp Ripley, Minn. In this photo, Capt. Lauren Meyer (from left), coach Bill Pifer, Maj. Stephanie Duarte and Staff Sgt. Jacob Weemes gather after the team relay race Feb. 16 at the CNGB Championships.

Ohio National Guard sports wrap:

ONG Biathlon Team members earn medals at 2022 CNGB Championships

Story by Bill Pierce, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

COLUMBUS, Ohio (04/15/22)

The Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team has completed another successful season, with members medaling three times in two individual races at the 2022 Chief, National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships, which took place Feb. 11-17 at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.

The biathlon is a grueling competition that tests the athletes’ ability to push themselves to another level in extreme cold. The team, consisting of both male and female members of the Ohio Air and Army National Guard, competes throughout the country in an event that combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. Throughout the season they attend regional competitions hosted by the National Guard Bureau, with high scores earning individuals and teams spots at the CNGB Biathlon Championships each February.

Retired Air National Guard Master Sgt. Bill Pifer, a former ONG Biathlon Team member, has helped coach the team for 24 years. Pifer says the extreme temperatures during competitions might surprise people.

“We woke up to -18° during the CNGB this past February,” Pifer said. “But don’t worry, you aren’t allowed to practice or compete until it warms up to at least 0°.”

The championships consist of two individual races and two team races. Each race demands strength, endurance, a sharp eye and a steady trigger finger.

The championships consist of two individual races and two team races. Each race demands strength, endurance, a sharp eye and a steady trigger finger.

The individual races are the sprint (women’s distance 7.5 kilometers/men’s 10 km), and the pursuit (women’s 10 km/men’s 12.5 km).

In the sprint race, women begin by skiing a 2.5-km loop, while men ski loops between 3.1 and 3.4 km. That is followed by shooting at targets (with five rounds) in the prone position. The targets are about the size of a 50-cent piece and are 50 meters away. A 150-meter penalty lap is added for every missed target, which can add about 40-45 seconds to your time. Another loop of skiing is followed by another round of shooting at five larger targets from the standing position, with penalty laps for each missed target. Finally, there is one last loop before the finish line.

In the pursuit race, each athlete begins according to their standing from the sprint race event the day before. Starting intervals are 15 seconds apart. Skiing a total of five, 2 km loops (2.5 km for men), the first two shooting positions are prone, while the last two are standing (same targets as the sprint). Any penalty laps are completed before the final loop and the finish line.

Although 11 Ohio athletes qualified to participate at this year’s CNGB Championships, only three were able to make the trip. The other eight were unable to attend due to prior commitments, work schedules, deployments or recovery from recent injuries.

This year’s team consisted of Maj. Stephanie Duarte, 237th Support Battalion; Capt. Lauren Meyer, 237th Support Battalion; and Staff Sgt. Jacob Weemes, Camp Perry Joint Training Center. Pifer accompanied the team as coach.

Duarte, who competes in the masters class (over 34 years old), repeated her second-place finish from CNGB 2021, in the women’s 7.5 km sprint, making the All-Guard Team in back-to-back years.

“I’m honored and excited to have made the All-Guard team for the second year in a row. Finishing in the top five overall out of 32 females is a great way to represent Ohio,” Duarte said. “It’s rewarding to see all of the hard work I did training throughout the year come to fruition. Especially the time spent on the range focusing on stress shooting tactics, which made me more competitive when I may not be the fastest skier. This was a great year to be involved in the sport overall and cheer for fellow National Guard Soldiers as they competed in the Winter Olympics (held in February in Beijing).”

Meyer, who competes in the open class (18-34 years old), and who did not compete last year, brought home two bronze medals in both the women’s 7.5 km sprint and 10 km pursuit races.

“The last year has been extremely challenging for me with increasing operations tempo and the one thing that keeps me grounded is my physical fitness,” Meyer said. “I wasn’t sure if I’d make it out this season. I am proud to bring home two bronze medals for the Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team. It goes to show that no matter what is going on in life, if you push yourself through hard times, you come out on top. I really enjoy this sport and competing against my teammate Stephanie Duarte. We have gone back and forth for years and I’m so proud she made the All-Guard team.”

The biathlon team is always looking for Soldiers and Airmen whose interests include keeping fit, pushing themselves to new limits, and having fun while doing it. Ohio Air and Army National Guard members interested in trying out can join the team at Camp Perry Joint Training Center in August/September 2022 when coaches and current team members host an introduction to biathlon competition. The two-day event includes weapons familiarization, range operations, a stress-shoot competition and roller skiing. No previous ski experience is required, and all equipment is provided. Email for more details.

Courtesy photos