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Tutus make difference in Canadian biathon championship relay

Prince George sharpshooter Aliah Turner wins single mixed relay bronze, her second medal at national event

The pink tutus weren’t just for cosmetic appearance, they also had some kind of aerodynamic effect.

Somehow, that flimsy material caught the slipstream that pushed Luke Hulshof and Leah Fredette to the top of the medal podium Thursday at the Canadian biathlon championships.

Inspired by Dr. Seuss, the 15-year-old Albertans dressed up to form the Green Eggs and Ham team in the senior boys/senior girls single mixed relay – their final event in the four-day competition at Otway Nordic Centre. As it turned out, they were the quickest of the quick in their 37-team category.

“I’ve never shot that good before in my life, like ever, and Luke shot really well too,” said Fredette, who shot 10-for-10 in first two rounds and had just one penalty loop in her second standing bout. “This is my best race by far. I was doing really good provincially and then I came to nationals and it wasn’t going so well, until today.’

Racing for Team Trail Sports of Canmore, Fredette watched from the transition area as Hulshof, skiing for Foothills Nordic of Calgary, hammered his skis up the hill to pressure early leader Graham Benson of Sea To Sky (Whistler). Hulshof, who won the senior boys pursuit on Monday, eventually caught Benson for the lead and they came into the range together for their first standing round and that’s where Hulshof made his move. He used just two spares to knock down all 10 targets in the first two shooting bouts to avoid penalty loops and in his last two trips to the range he went through four spare rounds with just one penalty.

“We owe it the tutus,” Fredette said. “It’s intimidating.”

They completed the 13.5-kilometre course in 52:20.6, winning by a minute over Laser Focus (Zachary Grappolini of Canmore Biathlon Racers and Lucia Baergen of Team Trail Sports).

Aliah Turner of Prince George paired up with Benson to form Luck of the Irish in their St. Patrick’s Day relay and they jostled between second and third place with Laser Focus throughout the race. In the single mixed relay, each competitor shoots four bouts, alternating prone and standing, and with Hulshof/Fredette comfortably ahead, Turner turned up the heat Grappolini/Baergen when she cleaned her second prone bout and had just one miss in her final standing session.

“Lucia was amazing on her skis today and the downs and flats were something I couldn’t keep up to her with, she just had some technically aggressive skiing and I couldn’t reciprocate it today,” said Turner. “She’s an amazing skier and I was just happy was in the ballpark with her. I’m going away happy this weekend.”

Turner and Benson, both 15, flirted with second place a few times late in the relay but Turner couldn’t catch Baergen on the rolling hills that made up the course. Luck of the Irish still had what it took to end their national championships with bronze. Turner had just three penalties in four shooting bouts, while Graham had just four penalty loops to ski.   

“The last lap, I was getting pretty tired on the skis, so I kept it pretty conservative,” said Benson, a native of Vancouver. “The last standing just wouldn’t fall for me and I only got one with the clip and I had one spare left and I hit with that one, so that three loops for me and then I tagged Aliah to finish it off.”

Turner and Benson each won silver in their pursuit races Monday. It was Benson’s first visit to Prince George and he hopes to return for more racing.

“I really like it,” he said. “Beautiful range, beautiful venue, the snow is fast for the most part, and I love the course here, it’s just so fun,” Benson said. “There’s lots of recovery (areas) and the (rifle) racks made it easier to get my heart rate down.”

 Turner had several of her Caledonia Ski clubmates involved in the race. Iona Cadell teamed up with Lucas Clements on It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over and they finished 16th. The Sinclair siblings – Liam and Payton, competed as Lucky Charms and finished 18th. Artemis Douglas hooked up with Braden Aitken to Form Pots of Gold and they placed 27th, while Cedar Wink and Mya Blackburn of Caledonia combined forces on Limericks and they finished 33rd.

In the masters men’s/women’s 35 relay, Chis Elden of Quesnel’s Cariboo Ski Touring Club formed a winning combination with Lea-Marie Bowes-Lyon and they won the race in 54:41.2, totalling nine penalties in eight shooting rounds. Slush Puppies  (Bryn Swansburg/Callie Lancaster of Bulkley Valley Ski Club) took silver in 54:30.6, followed by third-place The Wreck Ball Stephen Moses/Deborah Hall of Foothills Nordics), who clocked 55:30.8.

Irish I Had More Beer (Gary Tate of Vancouver Island Ski Club/John McNern of Telemark, West Kelowna) won the masters 50 relay in 52:06.2, with just six penalties. Silver went to Win or Booze (Eric Lemee of Foothills/Claudette Maltais of Charlo, N.B.) in 52:56.7, while Your Kryptonite (Jeannot Desaulniers of Hinton/Jacqueline Hitchinson of Fast and Fossil, Canmore) won bronze in 50:30.3.