Against all odds: Local teenager wins U15 biathlon National Championships |

Against all odds: Local teenager wins U15 biathlon National Championships

U15 biathlete Tristan Thrasher looks down his sight during a shooting bout at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Casper, Wyoming from Friday, March 24, to Sunday, March 26, 2023.
Tasha Thrasher/Courtesy photo

Against all odds, seven Steamboat Springs athletes competed in the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Casper, Wyoming. 

Steamboat does not recognize an official biathlon team in town and is forced to find alternate locations to train and affiliations to compete under. Despite the obstacles, U15 biathlete Tristan Thrasher, competing with Altius, swept his division and won all three races to become a national champion. 

“I showed up to this event and everything kind of clicked,” Thrasher said. “The first day I didn’t have perfect shooting, which didn’t happen all week. It was good enough and my ski speed was there. I was overall happy with how I performed.”

Thrasher believes the hardest part of coming to the shooting range is paying attention to the wind and adjusting his sights accordingly. It is something he has been getting more confident in but says skiing is where he can really take control of a race. 

Thrasher noticed that every coach he talks to on the United States Biathlon Association says the most important component of biathlon is skiing quickly. He attributes a lot of his success to skiing with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. 

“All of these kids are Winter Sports Club Nordic athletes,” Tristan’s father TJ Thrasher said. “U.S. biathlon really preaches skiing as the number one piece at the younger ages.”

Opening Nationals with the U15 sprint race on Friday, March 24, Tristan was the quickest out of both shooting bouts and won the race by 50 seconds with a 14 minute, 38 second time. 

Steamboat’s Charlie Wiedel also earned a podium in third with Conor Devin and Bode Rhodes each taking top-10 finishes, placing seventh and ninth respectively. 

U15 biathlete Tristan Thrasher skis down course at the U.S. Biathlon National Championships in Casper, Wyoming on Friday, March 24, 2023.
Tasha Thrasher/Courtesy photo

On Saturday, March 25, Tristan would win the pursuit race while missing just three targets across all four shooting bouts. His 15:24.3 time would clock in nearly two minutes ahead of second place. 

To cap off the weekend, Tristan teamed up with fellow Altius skier Aidan Sands. The duo dominated the final competition, winning with a combined time of 28:54.7. Tristan ran the opening leg, taking a 14:31.2 split before tagging Sands into the race. 

Tristan said it meant a lot to him to compete at such a consistently high level for three days straight. He is excited to begin competing at the next level. 

For U15 athletes, there are some differences compared to the higher levels. 

“It’s a shorter distance,” TJ Thrasher said. “All of these kids being U15 and under were shooting their bouts prone and none standing. One of the other differences at the younger age is they don’t carry their rifles.”

Tristan has big plans for the future. He will close out his competition season at a festival in Norway that lasts a week and a half starting April 7. He hopes to stay in form during the offseason and plans to skip the U17 level next year for the Youth division.

“I’m going to skip the U17 age group for next year and really break into carrying my rifle and shooting standing,” Tristan said. “The longer distance affects how you go about skiing. I can ski a 1k five times pretty hard, but if I have a 15k race I have to pace and think about how my energy is used best.”

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