Nome Nordic Club biathlon team is preparing for their upcoming competitions, as members of the team finished the third and final day of their camp at the Sunset Biathlon Range last week.
A member of the Western Interior Ski Association (WISA), the co-ed biathlon team is looking to continue their success in the upcoming months, especially at the Arctic Winter Games. The team is made up of junior and juvenile-age group athletes. Junior athletes are high-school-age, and juveniles are those younger than high school.
Keith Conger is the coach of Nome Nordic, as well as the president of WISA. He also coaches for team Alaska in the Arctic Winter Games and runs the Nome Biathlon Camp annually. The camp is a part of his efforts to promote success in the sport for youth in rural Alaska.
“So, I am trying to always make sure that our rural kids have the opportunities to progress in the sport similar to those opportunities provided for Anchorage kids — they just have an easier time with their ranges down there.”
Being from Western Alaska hasn’t hindered Conger’s athletes at all. He says they’ve found success against opponents from around the state and around the world.
“Our Western Interior team has had great success over the years. Last year — in 2018 — at the Arctic Winter Games, we had our junior ski biathlete, which is my daughter, beat a Russian each day, and also beat the road system girl, which doesn’t happen very often.”
Tobin Hobbs of Nome Nordic has won three consecutive Skimeister awards, the award for the top ranked biathlete at the WISA championships. Another Nome Nordic athlete, Mallory Conger, who is Coach Conger’s daughter, has won five consecutive, a record for female biathletes. The closest competitor has won three.
Conger has two athletes from his camp who have already qualified for the Arctic Winter Games: Hobbs and Johnny Soderstrom. Mallory Conger is too old to qualify for the Arctic Winter Games; however, she is one of 15 biathletes invited to the US Olympic Biathlete training center for a youth development program in Lake Placid, New York.
Above all, coach Conger stresses character to his athletes. He emphasizes that the main goal of a sports team should be to help young people build confidence and learn how to set and follow through on goals.
Last month, the coach took his team to Anchorage, and they put that main goal into practice. Conger spoke about his team’s willingness to help.
“For instance, when the four girls that we had from our region – we had one girl from Unalakleet and three from Nome – we got there early on the biathlon race day at Kincaid Park clinic in June, and we helped set up all 30 ranges.”
Conger says that set up all happened before athletes from any other team had showed up. He also stresses that actions like this are more important than an interest in winning.
Rural Alaska will have six representatives competing for Team Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games this coming March: two from Galena, two from Unalakleet, and two from Nome, with Tobin Hobbs and Bethany Daniel representing Nome Nordic.
Image at top: Nome Biathlon Camp. Sourced with permission from Western Interior Ski Association Facebook page.