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Washington Guard team takes honors at Biathlon Championship

The Washington National Guard men's Patrol Team climbs an incline during the 50th anniversary Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center Feb. 21, 2024. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. William Cowley

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CAMP MURRAY - A Washington National Guard biathlon team scored its first Cascade Cup victory and posted individual accomplishments by Majors Josh Jorgenson and Brendan Thompson during the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championship at Soldier Hollow, Utah, Feb. 18-24.

"This was the best we had ever competed because we had enough members, including three female members, to score high enough to place and take home the Cascade Cup," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jack Androski, team lead for the Washington National Guard Biathlon Team. "We did really well and we can hopefully build off that."

Jorgenson finished first in the Sprint and Pursuit races, and Thompson was named to a prestigious biathlon team.

"Major Thompson, while not winning a race, finished in the top 10 of all male athletes at the biathlon and is now part of the All-National Guard team," said Androski.

Biathlon training involves cross-country skiing between rifle ranges. Participants engage targets at 50 meters at each range. The exercises help soldiers shoot accurately after moving quickly across snow-covered terrain.

The Washington National Guard biathlon team has been through highs and lows since its inception. Some years, the team is large and some years, it has just two or three members. Androski has built out the roster the past few years, recruiting first-time female racers Warrant Officer Cindy Abrahamson, Sgt. Nicole Ridley and 1st Lt. Paige Bentley.

"I used to work with Chief Androski in the Joint Operations Center and he was building our women's team and made it sound like a neat experience, so I joined," said Bentley.

The inclusion of the three women meant that Washington was eligible to compete for the Cascade Cup, a trophy for biathlon teams from Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho. Washington's female team took home the trophy for the first time.

Bentley, who had never skied cross-country or downhill before competing in the biathlon, said she learned a lot about skiing and competition shooting throughout the week.

"I wasn't able to practice cross-country skiing or marksmanship directly for the events, but I continued my normal endurance training," said Bentley. "I learned how to cross-country ski, I learned how weather impacts the snow conditions, I also learned how to dress for competing in the weather, figuring out how many layers to wear."

For Bentley, the experience was worth the nerves she faced on race days. She now encourages others to give it a try.

"I think it's understandable to be nervous if you've never done it, but there are plenty of competitors from across the country who have never done it. Everyone is very kind and nonjudgmental, so it's a safe space to try it out," said Bentley.

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