Hallis Lake was alive this weekend (Jan. 20-22) with the sounds of crack and swoosh, the soundtrack of biathlon.
Rifles and skis from across the region went to work under the blue skies and sunshine at Quesnel’s nordic facility.
Twelve from Quesnel’s Cariboo Ski Touring Club were out on the course with 24 biathletes from out of town. Athletes came from Smithers, Burns Lake, Prince George and Williams Lake to take their shots.
The local contingent included (in alphabetical order) Laura Balkwill, Hayden Booth, Gisela Hamelin, Elek Kovach, Max Kovach, Abbey MacKay, Neil MacKay, Derrick Monsour, Jack Monsour, Luke Monsour, Savannah Robinson, and Luke Trueman.
This event was a single race that allowed all age categories to set off at once and be simultaneously on the course, but each athlete was allocated their appropriate spot in the final results.
Following the race for results, everyone was invited to participate in fun relays that mixed up teammates and let them compete just for camaraderie.
It was not an event pre-organized by any of the provincial or national biathlon bodies, it was a snow-down set up and hosted entirely by the local club.
“The reason we ran a regional race was, normally the BC Cup series of races is spread out throughout the winter fairly evenly,” said head coach Jim Crellin. “Every second or third weekend there will be one of those somewhere in the province, but for some reason this year, January got left out of the picture. There was nothing happening, especially up north here. So we thought we would have a low-key, fun event, get some people from the general area to come down, and just have a race just for practice as much as anything.”
It was practice for more than just the athletes. When the BC Winter Games are held in Quesnel next winter, officials for the nordic events will need to know how to use the Games’ timing system. This biathlon race was a rehearsal.
“We wanted to know how to operate it properly, and it went pretty well, we have a good head start on it, so we’re pretty pleased with that,” said Crellin.
The club will get another test run with the system during the cross-country Teck Northern Cup races happening at Hallis Lake on Feb. 11-12.
“That’s a fairly big cross-country event,” Crellin said. “We haven’t hosted races like that in a long time, so that’s fun, and there’ll be a learning curve, but it should be fine. You’ve got to go through it and go through it, and then do it again, and even still there might be a little glitch, but you’re better prepared to recover from it through repetition.”
There was one of those glitches during the biathlon race. One of the targets on the shooting range malfunctioned, but that is why contingencies are built into the system. They had 15 of 16 open for shooting, so plenty for their purposes.
The biathlon range was first built for the 2000 BC Winter Games, the last time Quesnel hosted the athletic extravaganza. It has been upgraded somewhat since then, but much of the original groundwork is still in play. The local organizers are feeling confident heading towards next year’s Games return.
“Our athlete numbers are building up again, people are keen, so that’s a good sign,” Crellin said.
Anyone interested in this skiing-shooting combination sport can find out more at www.caribooski.ca/biathlon.