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Inside the Gates: Alaska National Guard athletes win national competition

Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 8:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s not the Winter Olympics, but the the Alaska National Guard used it for motivation as it captured a national title in Minnesota.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Tracey Cooley, 1st Sgt. Angela Horn, Sgt. 1st Class Heather Percy, and Staff Sgt. Anna Knopes finished first in the women’s overall category during the annual Chief of the National Guard Biathlon Championships held at Camp Ripley in February.

“We have that competitive edge that we just want to do out best, and be our best,” Horn said. “We also want to do our best, and be our best for those we serve with.”

The competition drew more than 120 competitors from 30 states, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Knopes, who competed in her first biathlon.

She watched television each night, but not just for entertainment. She paid close attention to the biathlon competition in China during the Olympics.

“Every night I would watch the Biathlon race, to study up on their technique and try to transfer it over to my doings during the race the next day,” Knopes said. She also brought home a silver medal in the women’s novice pursuit race.

The biathlon is challenging. It’s a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The National Guard competition involved four races, each with a different distance.

“It amplifies everything in the guard, and training — real military training,” Cooley said.

She also found the biathlon serves another role.

“It’s not like sitting and firing your weapon with sandbags in a comfortable area. It emulates a real combat situation where you’re out pushing your body to the limits,” Cooley said. “And then you have to come down, calm, and shoot and hit targets.”

Three men also made up Team Alaska: Maj. David Cunningham, Sgt. Major Travis Kulp, and Sgt. Jason Bell. Horn wants to see more men tryout for next year’s squad, along with something else.

“Man I hope next year’s not so cold,” Horn said.

But she would not mind a repeat performance from the women’s team.

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