WEST YELLOWSTONE — Lawton Redman from Vermont laid claim to the title of the fastest biathlete in the United States after winning Saturday's U.S. Biathlon Association National Championship, his second victory in as many races here.
Redman will try for a third first-place finish Sunday when the championships conclude.
"I've had a pretty good year," Redman said, crossing the finish line of the men's 12.5k pursuit in 37 minutes 1 second.
Dan Westover, also of Vermont, finished second, high enough to maintain his overall-points lead among North American competitors for the 2001 season.
The last North American event of the season was held amid spring-like temperatures that turned the West Yellowstone course to slush.
All of the competitors were jockeying for a position on the U.S. biathlon team in anticipation of next year's 2002 Winter Games at Soldier Hollow. Most of the top competitors at Saturday's race have already moved to Utah to begin training.
Westover was clearly kicking himself after the national championships, having blown a couple of chances to overtake Redman. He said his marksmanship, especially late in competitions, has deserted him in recent weeks.
"The last two weeks I have let myself down. I have had the potential to win," he said. "I have a bad trend going."
Westover missed five out of 20 shots Saturday. Redman missed seven shots, but was skiing fast enough on the course to more than make up the difference, fishing ahead of Westover by 25 seconds.
Jeremy Teela, a member of the 2001 national team with strong finishes in World Cup competitions earlier this season, finished in third place with a time of 39 minutes 7 seconds.
In the women's 10k pursuit, Kristina Sabasteanski, a New Hampshire native now living in Utah, won her second race of the three-day national championship with a time of 34:34. She missed four of her 20 shots, a performance that put her well ahead of second-place finisher Andrea Nahrgang, who missed seven shots on her way to a time of 36 minutes 23 seconds.
"I'm disappointed in my shooting again. I didn't really focus," said Nahrgang, who is fighting to keep her spot on the U.S. women's team. Nahrgang, who hails from Minnesota, has also moved to Utah to train for the Games.
The poor shooting negated an otherwise fast day of skiing (for each missed shot, competitors must ski a 150-meter penalty lap).
Jill Troutner from Minnesota finished third with a time of 38 minutes 26 seconds. She missed only five shots, which enabled her to move up into third position from a starting point in the middle of the pack.
Kara Salmela, also of Minnesota, turned in what is probably the most inspirational performance of the competition. She was the last to leave the starting gate but finished fourth with a time of 41 minutes 17 seconds. That came five days after a car accident in Calgary that left her bruised and suffering from whiplash.
"I felt the effects (of the accident)," she said, "but today I am much better."
America's top biathletes, Rachel Steer on the women's side and Jay Hakkinen on the men's, did not participate in the championships.