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Snowshoe biathletes represent rural Alaska at Arctic Winter Games
The Arctic Sounder
April 7, 2017
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October 6, 2016
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Ski, Biathlon Championships in White Mountain Earn Western, Interior Athletes Trip to Arctic Winter Games
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Nome Nugget Article from
Nome Nugget Article from THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2013
BSSD SKI Championship
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Team Alaska members compete at 26th annual
Western Interior Ski and Biathlon Championships
Fairbanks News Miner
April 2, 2012
Nome Nugget – Page 8
March 22, 2012
April 6, 2011
September 2010 issue
Conger makes history at Nordic ski championships
April 08, 2010
Nome’s Conger rewrites history books at WISA Ski and Biathlon Championships
Fairbanks News Miner
April 6, 2010
Five Alaskan biathletes shoot their way to the podium in Canada.
Nome Nugget, Thursday March 18th, 2010.
Article on the Team Alaska website about biathlon
Go here to see the Article about WISA in Cross Country Skier Magazine, October 2009 Issue.
April 9, 2009
Farbainks News Miner
Published April 5, 2009
Fairbanks News Miner
Published Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Nome Nugget Article – 2006
Galena Tops Nome at WISA Ski Meet
By Nome Ski Team Reporters
After a successful season skiing against regional competition, the Nome Ski Team went to “spread its wings” against skiers from other parts of the state at the annual WISA (Western Interior Ski Association) Ski and Biathlon meet, March 30 – April 1 in Tanana. Although they achieved unprecedented success, the team could not quite fly as high as the Hawks from Galena.
Coached by 4-time Olympic National Ski Team member Todd Boonstra, the Hawks captured three of four Skimeister (top skier) awards, placing first and second in two age group categories. They also took three out of four team awards (determined by combining the results from the top two skiers from one site in a particular age group). Only Tobin Hugny-Farr of Nenana, and Hunter Gray and Andy Harrelson, the combined High School Boys team from White Mountain, were able to wrestle top honors from Galena.
Nome’s best results were achieved by the Junior High Boys team in the fifth through eighth grade category. They were lead by seventh grader Emerson Conger, whose combined effort for the three day event lead to third place overall in his age group. Richard Sommer and Mitch Schneider, both of Galena, grabbed the top two spots.
Conger earned a bronze medal in the 2.8 mile ski race, and had the third fastest split in the team relay. His third place finish in the biathlon gave him his first ever medal in the event. He is the first skier from Nome to win three medals at a WISA competition.
Conger and teammate Reed Eide, sixth grade, would have placed first and second in the ski race were it not for the boys from Galena. Eide’s fourth place finish in the event was impressive, and tied a personal best. His combined results in the three events placed him fifth overall, one spot behind Jess Reynolds of Savoonga.
The junior high pair from Nome had a chance to virtually wrap up second place in the team competition after the second day, but a combination of a tough day skiing for Eide in the biathlon, and a great second round shooting by Danny Pungowiyi of Savoonga, resulted in Eide finishing one second behind Pungowiyi in ninth place.
The Nome team looked sharp, however, the next day in the final event – the team relays. Conger stayed ahead of the Savoonga team on the first l.8 mile loop, being able to fend off the hard charging Reynolds. Eide then put it all together on the anchor leg, expanding the seven-second lead he was handed to 91 seconds. Eide’s efforts led to second place for the team in the race, behind Galena, and secured second place overall for the weekend.
Nome’s lone entrant in the Junior High Girls competition, fifth grader Noelle Bell, had remarkable individual results, despite being one of the youngest and smallest competitors. Bell barely reached the shoulder of Galena’s Nikki Fennimore, a dominant eighth grade skier whose time would have been eight seconds shy of winning the Junior High Boys race. Fennimore would also have won the High School Girls Biathlon by two minutes.
Bell’s top results came in the ski race, where she placed third. Although she lacked a teammate for the team competition, Bell’s third best relay split helped her and exhibition relay partner, Kira Eckenweiler from Unalakleet, post the second fastest relay time.
On the biathlon course, it was not the uphill affectionately known as “the Wall,” or the 45 degree drop ominously called Suicide Hill, nor the constant up and down of the toughest course she had seen all year, but it was the shooting range that proved most challenging to Bell. Although missing nine of ten shots caused her to spend much time doing penalty loops (one short, approximately 25 second loop for each missed shot) Bell’s strong skiing helped her to place fifth in the event, a personal best.
Bell’s combined three day results were more than enough to hold off the remainder of the field’s competitors, with the exception of the host team’s Cassandra Joseph, an eighth grader who placed second overall. Bell, who was the first Junior High girl from Nome to have ever competed at a WISA event, placed third overall.
Nome’s only high school entrant, sophomore Tara Schmidt, continued her strong season. Showing consistent results by placing fifth in both the 4.2 mile ski race and the biathlon, she also posted the fifth best split in the exhibition relay.
The powerhouse duo of Kallie Brown and Bessie Hausmann of Galena had strong showings in all events. Only White Mountain’s Katya Wassalie, whose good shooting gave her a silver medal in the biathlon, was able to take any of the High School girls event’s top two spots.
Brown, a ski competitor at this year’s Arctic Winter Games, won her first high school Skimeister Award. Last year, she placed second behind Nome’s Hailey Scofield, who is currently going to school in Vermont, and unable to defend her crown.
Outstanding accomplishments by other area Biathlon competitors were a third place finish by senior Gerald Hughes of Teller, and a fifth place finish by sixth grader Renee Kimoktoak of Koyuk. Francis Katongan of Unalakleet was one of only three competitors on the day to shoot clean (10 out of 10).
In reflecting on the season, Nome Ski Coach Keith Conger said, “ the four skiers who attended WISA this year have worked hard to form the basis for an even stronger team next year. I have never worked with a group of young people that were more coachable and who wanted to continuously improve their skills. They are already talking about attending the 25K (15 mile) Tour of Anchorage next season.”
Alaska’s state skiing competition is in February. Race Coordinator, Eric Morris of White Mountain says WISA was created nearly 20 years ago to give skiers who are off the road system a chance to compete, since snow in many of these areas is very poor in the beginning of the season. It is an important qualifier for several Arctic Winter Games events, and it is the only public school association in the United States that has the Biathlon event.
WISA president Rudy Howard, a former teacher in Tanana, Savoonga and Koyuk, and Morris, both have worked tirelessly over the past 30 years promoting skiing around the state. They were happy to announce that the 2007 WISA meet would be held in White Mountain.
Article from Nome Nugget – 2007
Junior High Duo from Nome Stage Come From Behind Victory at WISA Ski Meet
By WISA Reporters
When the best skiers in rural Alaska united in White Mountain this past weekend there was no shortage of experience and talent. So, when a rookie skier cracked the top 10 in both individual events at the annual Western Interior Ski Association (WISA) Ski and Biathlon meet it was no small feat.
Yet seventh grader Brendan Wehde’s 10th place finish (just 2 seconds behind Savoonga’s Joey Waghiyi) in the Biathlon was one place higher than his finish in the 4K ski race the day before. It left him wondering if this was a trend headed in the wrong direction going into the final event, the team relays.
The first year member of the Nome Ski Team was paired up with Emerson Conger, eighth grade, who was fresh off a 2007 BSSD Championship win the week before. The tandem found themselves tied for second place going into the relays. Standing in their way yet again however, was perennial powerhouse Savoonga, made up of a pair of eighth graders who were also fresh off the 2007 BSSD team title; Jess Reynolds, the 2006 BSSD Champion, and 2005 BSSD Bronze Medalist Waghiyi.
Perhaps the biggest threat, however, came from a hard charging team from host White Mountain, featuring 2007 Koyuk Invitational Champ Vinny Tomalonis, seventh grade. Tomanonis, who was recovering from the flu and could barely walk during the 4K, recovered nicely for the Biathlon the second day, taking third. He teamed up with 2006 BSSD Championships 4K silver medalist Asa Bergamaschi, sixth grade, who had taken 5th in both events in this meet. The two would win the most team points in Biathlon to put themselves in a tie with Nome for second after two days.
Wehde started the first leg of the seven-team relay with a spectacular burst, getting to the tight bottleneck on the trail in third place. Although he slipped to sixth place by the time he made the tag with anchorman Conger, he was just 22 seconds behind a pack of skiers headed by Waghiyi, and followed closely by Josh Mayrand of Nenana, Bergamaschi, and Galena’s Seth Stout.
That stellar effort, which gave Wehde the 9th fastest split time, was more than adequate for Conger who methodically caught up to each member of the pack, and came across the finish line first to capture not only the win in the relay, but also the first place team trophy for junior high boys as well.
Conger, along with senior Colin Campbell, the event’s high school boys champion from Tanana, were the only two males in the relay event to break the 10-minute mark. His split time of 9:42 was over a half minute faster than any junior high boy.
The win for Nome was not without challenge, however, as the team from White Mountain was only 17 seconds out of first. That fine feat placed them in a tie with Savoonga for team points. The tiebreaker system was used to determine that second place would go to Savoonga.
While west coast skiers dominated the junior high boy’s events, girls from the Yukon River were in firm control of the high school girl’s competition. Ninth grade phenom Nikki Fennimore of Galena, and much-improved Ruby Campbell, a junior from Tanana, took gold and silver in both individual events, and posted the two fastest splits in the relay as well.
Fennimore captured her second Ski Meister award, the coveted award given to the most outstanding athlete in each age division. She had dominated the field as an eighth grader the year before in Tanana.
The only western Alaska skier to crack the top 5 was Nome’s Tara Schmidt, a junior and 2007 BSSD Champ. Schmidt had worked hard during the season to learn the intricacies of skate ski technique and to get ready for the formidable hills on the 8K (5.5 mile) Sweetheart Trail.
Schmidt’s endeavors earned her bronze medals in each of the individual events, and gave her the third fastest split in the relay as well. She improved her place in the standing by two spots over last year, and became only the second high school girl from Nome to medal at a WISA meet.
Conger went the entire season not missing a shot in biathlon, where participants combine skiing with 10 shots on a rifle range, with each miss resulting in an approximately 15 second penalty loop. His time of 22:11 tied him with the elder Cambell for fastest biathlon time at the meet, and was over one and two minutes faster than silver medalist Reynolds, and bronze medalist Tomalonis, respectively. A margin of victory in the 4K skate ski race of nearly a minute over silver medalist Cy Conrad of Tanana helped Conger gain his second Ski Meister Award in as many weeks.
Because both Fennimore and Conger had such successful meets, they have qualified as members of Alaska’s Arctic Winter Games Biathlon Team for the 2008 games, which will take place in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. WISA, which is celebrating its 20th year, is recognized by Arctic Winter Games Alaska as the official rural state ski and biathlon competition, and acts as a qualifier for the international event. Every two-years two biathlon spots are awarded to athletes at the WISA meet.
Matching Conger in back-to-back Ski Meister awards was eighth grader Sierra Corsetti of Unalakleet, who continued her dominance in both the individual events. She also posted the fastest split for junior high girls in the relay. She came in nearly a minute ahead of Precious Lincoln of White Mountain, in the 4K and had nearly a two-minute lead over eighth grader Maudrey Kriska of Nenana in the biathlon, despite hitting only 4 shots to Kriska’s 7. Her split time in the team relay was a minute and a half faster than Kriska as well.
The girl’s team from White Mountain dominated the junior high team competition. Lincoln and sixth grader Rayna Buck-Nassuk placed in the top 5 in all events and never trailed in winning the team trophy.
The junior high girls team from Nome took fourth place at WISA. Both sixth grader Devynn Johnson and seventh grader Celeste Menadelook posted top 10 finishes. Johnson nearly medaled in the 4K, taking fourth. The team as a whole from Nome was also awarded the Sportsmanship Trophy.
Joining Conger as biathletes to hit all 10 targets were Reynolds and Alex Otten of Saint Michaels. Seventh grader Rachel Stiles of Nome, and eighth grader Ester Brown of White Mountain were the only junior high girls to hit all 10. Since high school shooters are not allowed to use a rest, they tend to have lower scores. Campbell, with seven hits, was the best shooter among the high school boys. Kelsey Overbey, of Nenana, who also hit 7 targets, was the best among the high school girls.
In the annual WISA meeting longtime president Rudy Howard resigned. Jack Adams of White Mountain was voted unanimously as the new president. The 2008 WISA meet will be held in Tanana.