September 22, 2023
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – World class athletes were in Brillion on Friday competing in the first ever Ariens Nordic Center Pro-Am Relay.
The event paired race teams of U.S. Biathlon athletes with amateurs. The professionals who competed were Deedra Irwin, Campbell Wright, Vincent Bonacci, Maxime Germain and Chloe Levins.
The amateurs were all moderately experienced in biathlon and mostly local. One of them, Lizzie Osteen, traveled from Lafayette, Indiana to be a part of the event.
“It was fantastic. It’s always good having that perspective right next to you. You have that immediate gauge of where am I, how much work do I need to do,” Osteen said.
The groups competed in a relay race on the center’s 3K of paved roller-ski trails and used the center’s 20-point Kurvinen biathlon target range.
Each of the pro athletes have unique stories that led them to the U.S. Biathlon team. The most well-known to the area is Irwin, a native of Pulaski. Other members started much farther away; Wright is originally from New Zealand but now represents the United States in the sport.
“Any time that we can have the national team ski with the local athletes, that’s always going to put a fire in everybody to come out here and check it out, or try biathlon,” Irwin said.
The professional athletes impressed, showing off their skills and expertise, and Ariens Nordic Center continued to draw rave reviews. Participants said it should be possible for Ariens Nordic Center to someday host national competitions.
“I think it’s the completeness of how it’s been thought out. They’ve just done everything with sort of perfection in mind. They got the best people to design it. They put the lodge here and the Nordic center, and the way it all fits together in this beautiful piece of property, it’s just fantastic,” Jack Gierhart, U.S. Biathlon Association President and CEO, said.
The event was held just days after the center was designated an official U.S. Biathlon training site and after Ariens Company renewed its sponsorship of the U.S. Biathlon team.
Ariens Nordic Center is in its first year of hosting events but is open to the public. It offers a trail network used for year-round recreation, with skiing, roller-skiing, running, hiking and biathlon. It uses a snowmaking system for its winter events and is the only one of its kind in the Midwest.
Complete coverage of the Pro-Am Relay will be featured in the September 28, 2023 print edition of The Brillion News.