On the firing range Tyrone native Doug Hoover takes careful aim at his targets during the recent North American and United States Summer Biathlon in Fort Kent, Maine. (The Daily Herald/Courtesy Photo)
|New Gloucester, ME, July 16. The 2007 North American and United States Summer Biathlon National Championships were held in Fort Kent, Maine last weekend. This event also served as the World Championship Trials for the United States team. Tyrone native and Williamsburg resident Doug Hoover entered this competition as the defending National Champion, having won two out of three races at last year\’s event. He improved on last year\’s showing as he dominated all three races.
This was the twelfth time Hoover competed in the National Championship and his ninth top-ten finish. But, more importantly, it was a successful defense of the national title he first claimed last year and the fifth consecutive time he qualified to represent the United States in the World Championship. This year he managed to put a stamp on the competition by winning all three races. “There were high expectations going into the event,” said Hoover. “I feel like I handled the pressure better than I ever have and am pleased with the results.”
Through several early season races this year, Hoover had experimented with different race strategies and lost more races than he won in the process. Fortunately, he found his rhythm at nationals. He ran conservatively through all three races and outshot all of the top competitors as he averaged 62% on the range. “I\’m generally better than that on the range. But, shooting conditions were challenging for everyone. So, relative to the field, that was good enough,” Hoover summarized. “But, there\’s still room for improvement for me in both areas: on the shooting range as well as the running course.”
Hoover won the men\’s 4 km (2.5 mile) sprint race the hard way. In that race he shot just 50% and had to run what would be his hardest on the course for this competition. He defeated fellow Pennsylvanian Alden Sims (Venus, PA) by 50 seconds. Finishing third in the sprint was Nick Peterson (Ely, MN), just seven seconds behind Sims.
The second race was a 6 km (3.7 mile) pursuit race in which competitors start in the same order they finished the sprint. In that race, Hoover extended his lead over the field to nearly four minutes. He once again posted the fastest time of the day by nearly a minute, having shot 60% on the range. His closest competitor once again was Sims. However, posting the second fastest time of the day was Keith Woodward (Stowe, VT), who had not run in the sprint race earlier and therefore had started at the back of the field. Woodward is a five-time former national champion himself.
The final race of the competition was a 6 km (3.7 mile) mass start. Hoover\’s strategy for the entire weekend was very evident in this race as all competitors started simultaneously, rather than in interval starts as in the previous races. Hoover ran comfortably in the main group through the first running loop. Then, after missing just one target in the first shooting stage, he assumed the lead of the race and never relinquished it. During the third shooting stage he missed four targets and his lead shrunk. But, he regrouped and shot clean in the final stage to seal his final win. Hoover averaged 70% on the range in this final race. Woodward finished second in this race-33 seconds behind Hoover.
Hoover summarized the experience. “Having won the title last year, I came into the competition this year with a target on my back. So, it was very gratifying to be able to defend it successfully. I\’m enjoying this for awhile and then I\’ll get back to work.”
Hoover does have several more races coming up in the next two months in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The most important decision that is yet to be made is whether or not he will compete in his third World Championship in Estonia in September. He has committed to going, subject to a commitment from the other qualifiers. “The honor of representing this country at worlds is something that I take very seriously,” he said.