Date Posted:03/26/2008, 1:30PM
BRUNSWICK, Maine - Sophomore Walt Shepard (Yarmouth, Maine), a member of the Bowdoin Nordic Ski Team, won three national titles at the North American Biathlon Championships in Coleraine, Minnesota last week.
Competing against several of the top biathletes from the United States and Canada, Shepard hit 9 of 10 targets to place 2nd overall (1st American) in last Thursday's 10k sprint race. In the next day's pursuit race, Shepard combined fast skiing with accurate shooting (17 of 20) to win a second national title in spite of skiing an extra penalty lap when one of his targets failed to fall due to a technical malfunction. On the final day of competition, the 20k mass start event, Shepard broke away from the pack along with former Olympian Robert Douglas. The two racers battled until the final sprint, when Shepard pulled away to win his third national title by .8 seconds, finishing 2nd overall behind a Canadian racer.
Biathlon combines cross-country ski racing with target shooting. Although Shepard competes in cross-country skiing at Bowdoin, he hadn't competed in a biathlon event or practiced shooting since last year's Championships.
"I showed up for the races really relaxed, and just found that when I came into the range I knew I was going to hit targets," said Shepard. "To go out to Nationals and win all three races was not something I had expected. It was disappointing coming so close to NCAAs and then not qualifying, so I was just looking at the North American Championships as a way to extend the season a little farther."
Shepard's season will continue for a few more days ? he has been invited to compete at the Canadian Biathlon Championships in British Columbia as a member of the US Biathlon Team. The World Cup biathlon season has recently concluded, and several of the world's top biathletes will be in attendance.
"I'm feeling really good form now considering it's so late in the season, so I'm really looking forward to racing in Vancouver this week," said Shepard. "It will be a great test of my fitness as well as a tremendous opportunity to preview the 2010 Olympic course."
The races begin on Thursday, March 27th, and conclude on Sunday, March 30th.