PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - Illness is beginning to take a toll on the US biathlon team at the World Cup competition in northern Maine.
Skiing for the US women in the 7.5 km sprint Friday, Lake Placid's Haley Johnson posted a time of 22:41.7 after missing one shot each in the prone and standing positions and finishing the day 42nd out of 56 competitors.
"It went OK today," Johnson said following Friday's race at the Nordic Heritage Center. "I'm really not feeling all that great, so now I just want to get some sleep and be strong for tomorrow's race."
Chants of “USA! USA! USA!” greeted Haley Johnson as she skied off the shooting range and back on to the course during Friday’s World Cup Biathlon competition.
(Photo — Julia Bayly)
Paul Smiths native Tim Burke missed Friday's 10-kilometer sprint race due to a lingering cold. Earlier this week Team USA Coach Jonne Kahkonen said the biathlete would not compete in Presque Isle, but was expected to recover in time for the next stop on the World Cup circuit in Fort Kent, Maine.
Johnson, who trained with the Maine Winter Sports Center out of Fort Kent, last raced in Presque Isle in 2005 and said she is happy to be back in front of the northern Maine fans.
"I can't tell you how many times I heard them shout my name during the race," Johnson said. "It's really fun to be back."
Teammate Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid ended his day 25th overall, posting a time of 27:18.7. Bailey shot clean from the prone position and missed one shot while standing, earning him one lap around the penalty loop.
Conditions were windy Friday, gusting to around six to eight miles per hour.
"It was pretty windy out there, so I'm happy with the hits I got," Bailey said. "It was a real good atmosphere in the stadium."
While Bailey's health is fine, he did say he was still tired after competing in, and traveling from, competitions in Italy.
Sara Studebaker had a big day Friday for the U.S. team, racing to a career-best 14th-place finish in the women's 7.5 km sprint. It was the best result for a U.S. woman biathlete in over a decade.
"It's still a bit surreal to be in the Top 15, especially on home soil," Studebacker said. "That's simply awesome."
With a perfect shooting at the range, the doors were open for Studebaker's best finish ever at 21:38.9, ranking just 1:00.2 minutes behind the winner Helena Ekholm of Sweden who finished in 20:38.7.
Studebaker will start 14th in Sunday's pursuit.
"It's a bit nerve-wrecking to start that high up in a pursuit, but I try to not think about it. In a way it hasn't hit me yet," she explained. " I knew I had the potential, but to have it happening here, that is simply awesome."
U.S. Biathlon High Performance Director Bernd Eisenbichler also was impressed by her result.
"It was an amazing result, that's for sure," Eisenbichler said. "We are not exactly spoiled with top 15 finishes in the women's team, so that was really fun to watch.
"For Haley and Laura it's also going to be a good base for the pursuit. Two or three minutes is not too far behind. I am really happy with the overall result today."
The event in Presque Isle resumes this afternoon with the 12 km mixed relay. On Sunday, it's the men's 12.5 km pursuit and the women's 10 km pursuit.
U.S. Biathlon contributed to this report.