South Burlington High School sophomore Aleksandra Zakrzewska never expected to become a successful biathlon athlete. In fact, when she first began Nordic skiing as a five year old, simply keeping up with her parents and older sister on skis was more on her mind.
“When I was young I went Nordic skiing with my parents the same way that people go alpine skiing with their parents. I remember really liking it,” recalled Ms. Zakrzewska. Her interest led to involvement in the Bill Koch Nordic Youth Skiing Program, an extensive program all over New England with a local chapter at Sleepy Hollow Ski and Bike Center in Richmond.
A paintball biathlon the youth skier did for fun first spurred her interest in biathlon. “I loved it,” Ms. Zakrzewska smiled. “My mom searched and found a biathlon program and team that practiced twice a week in Jericho.”
Ms. Zakrzewska wasted no time. She became part of that same program—Ethan Allen Biathlon Club (EABC)—the winter of her eighth-grade year, participating in practices twice a week and racing once a week at the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho, a Vermont National Guard facility that the club borrows.
The EABC’s website captures the physical and mental challenges the sport offers: “Biathlon is a sport that combines the physically demanding sport of cross-country skiing with the intense precision of rifle marksmanship. With hearts pounding nearly three times a second, biathletes need to control their breathing as they shoot.” Ms. Zakrzewska embraces the challenge: “I love skiing in general, and it’s really hard to get the balance between going fast for the skiing and getting your heart rate down for the shooting. For Nordic, if you have a lot of adrenaline before a race, it helps. But for a biathlon that adrenaline doesn’t help because you get shaky.”
Searching for balance is not unfamiliar to Ms. Zakrzewska, who participates as a notable three-season varsity athlete on SB high school’s cross country running, Nordic skiing, and track teams as well. Additionally she has an intense academic schedule, and she is a musician, playing clarinet in her school band. When asked how she finds balance in her life, she laughs and initially responds, “I don’t.”
“It does work out somehow,” she continues, reflecting. “I have a decent work ethic, and I somehow manage to get everything done. I have to prioritize.”
Clearly a priority for Ms. Zakrzewska will continue to be heading out to the Ethan Allen Firing Range in Jericho three times a week, a trip she generously encourages others to take with her: “The EABC has Thursday night races at the range, and anyone is welcome to come. No experience is necessary to do any of the races. There are clinics before each race to teach novices how to use the rifles. In the summer they host running races as well.”
To accept Ms. Zakrzewska’s invitation to give biathlon a try, please contact EABC coach Eric Tremble at email@example.com.
SOURCE: Susie Merrick, Contributor