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Hoover wins National Championship and World Championship Trials

Tyrone native and Williamsburg resident Doug Hoover reached a milestone in his career as he captured his first Summer Biathlon National Championship and followed that up by winning the World Championship Trials in Saratoga, New York last weekend. In a sport that combines cross-country running with rifle marksmanship, Hoover had previously finished in the top-ten at six U.S. National Championships. In winning his first title this year, his performance reflected the experience he had gained in those previous championships.
“I’ve been on the edge of winning a championship before and each time I found a way to throw it away. Before I let my nerves get to me. I think those experiences finally paid off as I was able to keep my composure this year,” said Hoover. “I just trusted my training and went out did what I was prepared to.”
The National Championship Race was a 4.4 mile cross country run that included four stops at the shooting range, shooting five shots each time. For each missed target, a competitor would have to run a 100m penalty loop. During the first half of the race Hoover sat back in the pack trying to run comfortably with the intent of hitting targets. Through the first three shooting stages, Hoover recorded just two penalties while his closest competitor recorded three and the other top men recorded as many as ten. At that point Hoover found himself with a comfortable lead on the field. As he began his final bout of shooting, Hoover promptly missed his first two targets before regrouping to nail the last three and seal the win.
“Once I got the lead, I just kept telling myself to stay calm and focus. I’d been there before and blown it. This time it finally came together. I didn’t have any idea how anyone else was shooting at the time. I just knew that I was in front and I needed to stay there. On the last lap I just emptied the tank,” Hoover said. “Once I saw the finish line it was like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. I’d worked so hard for this for so long and at times I wondered if it would ever happen.”
Following Hoover to the finish line 29 seconds later was Russ Skelton of Montana in second place. Three-time defending national champion Erich Wilbrecht of Wyoming took third place 93 seconds back and Pat Bragassa of Idaho took fourth just over two minutes back. “Those guys are some of my best friends and great competitors. I’ve been going back and fourth with Russ and Pat for a long time. But, this was the first time I ever beat Erich. I’ve got the utmost of respect for all of them. This was a great competition. They made me earn it. They are some of the toughest guys I know.”
Hoover acknowledged that the win really was a team effort. “My parents have invested a lot in this. I could never have done it without them. My training partner, teammates, coaches, and so many other people have really helped to keep me on track and focused through all the ups and downs that we’ve had along this journey. I’ve loved the journey. But, reaching this destination is very sweet.”
Winning the national title was just the beginning of Hoover’s success. He followed that up by winning the 2.6 mile sprint race of the World Championship Trials and claimed the overall title of the weekend series. In those two races he averaged 80% on the shooting range to top the field and combined that with some strong running. “Both aspects of my racing were strong this weekend. I came in with a goal of running hard and shooting 70%. I felt like that would be sufficient to qualify for worlds. I’d been struggling on the run most of this year so I was planning to just gut it out. But, everything came together. My training had been geared toward this race and worlds and it was gratifying to see it work out,” he said.
There was a third race in the World Championship Trials…another 4.4 mile race. However, by the time of that race, Hoover’s position atop the podium was not in jeopardy. “I had pushed harder in the first two races than I planned initially. Fortunately, because the trials are scored based on the best two races, the third race really didn’t matter for me. I just needed to race well in order to keep the field’s strength comparable to the first two races. I almost pulled off the sweep,” he said. In the end, Hoover lost that race by a mere 4 seconds to teammate Russ Skelton of Montana. “Russ had finished second in the first two races. So, I was real happy to see him pick up one win. He earned it,” Hoover said.
Now Hoover will focus his efforts on preparing for the World Championships, which will be held in Ufa, Russia during the week of September 4-10. The other nominees to the United States Team include Bragassa (2nd), Skelton (3rd), and Wilbrecht (4th). “It is the greatest honor to represent the United States and something I am humbled to do. I just want to represent my family and our country with honor and not let my teammates down,” said Hoover.
2006 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Thursday, July 13, 2006
TOP TEN MEN
Pl Athlete P P S S Time
1 Hoover, Douglas 1 0 1 2 33:32.0
2 Skelton, Russ 1 2 0 2 34:01.0
3 Wilbrecht, Erich 2 1 3 4 35:05.0
4 Bragassa, Pat 2 5 3 3 35:49.0
5 Deninger, Nikolai 4 1 1 2 36:19.0
6 Woodward, Keith 1 2 3 2 36:39.0
7 Ludington, Tyler 3 3 3 3 38:34.0
8 Peterson, Christian 3 2 2 3 39:54.0
9 Mattingly, James 4 1 3 3 40:12.0
10 Sims, Alden 5 5 5 5 41:46.0
2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TRIALS
July 13-16, 2006
TOP TEN MEN
Pl Athlete Mass Start Sprint Pursuit Best 2
1 Hoover, Douglas 101.981 102.034 99.934 102.008
2 Skelton, Russ 100.568 99.542 100.131 100.350
3 Bragassa, Pat 95.307 98.425 99.934 99.180
4 Wilbrecht, Erich 97.450 98.253 99.295 98.774
5 Deninger, Nikolai 93.845 98.339 90.051 96.092
6 Woodward, Keith 92.871 95.932 91.575 94.402
7 Hettenbaugh, Jason 92.839 90.248 91.544
8 Iwan, Joe 87.253 86.412 86.833
9 Sims, Alden 77.915 86.050 87.494 86.772
10 Tran, Tin 57.941 91.979 81.151 86.565