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Peiffer earns victory at nationals

Nordic skier eager for continental biathlon championships at Whistler Olympic Park

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Benita Peiffer is best in a dash and she proved it at the Canadian Ski Championships in Cantley, Que.

In the junior women's sprint heats, the local Nordic skier performed well enough to advance while conserving her energy, winning her first round, taking second in the second round and edging out Ontario's Shaylynn Loewen in the final by just 0.27 seconds and Revelstoke's Elizabeth Elliott by 0.65 seconds.

"It was surreal. My time at nationals was going OK but not what I expected," she said. "It was honestly awesome. It was what I needed to finish off my season."

Peiffer said while sprints are generally her forte, it's also the event where things can go from great to gruesome in a hurry.

"You never know what can happen on a sprint day. You could always trip and fall and things can just go sideways so quickly, but luckily for me, everything went well, my skis were awesome. I was having a super awesome day beside my teammates and trying to stay positive," she said. "Things just worked in my favour that day.

"I tried to play it smart and go a little bit easier in the first couple heats to make sure that I'm taking it slow," she said.

In the final, Peiffer hung back in the first lap, but stayed close enough to allow herself a chance to pass at just the right time to claim the win.

"I was able to stick right behind them going into the downhill. There was a point where I was able to get into second place and then going up the last hill, I went up the hill beside the girl who got second. She died and she wasn't able to push through and that's when I made my move," she said. "It was a long downhill to the finish.

"There was the option for girls to draft me and pass me, but luckily, I skied fast enough and I was able to get to the finish in time."

Earlier in the week, Peiffer took fifth in the interval event, and eighth in the pursuit before a ninth in the mass start. She was ill coming into nationals, so her training was affected and she didn't start as quickly as she'd have liked.

"I think I maybe could have been in a little bit better condition for nationals, but considering how I was able to prepare myself coming into it, I was pretty happy," she said. "Races weren't going how I wanted, but you've got to have fun with it and that's how I was able to perform my best."

A number of other Whistlerites were in action at nationals. Michael Murdoch was fourth in the junior men's sprint race, fifth in the interval race and sixth in the pursuit. Joe Davies also had some top-10 finishes, placing sixth in the junior boys' pursuit, seventh in the interval, 11th in the sprint and 12th in the mass start. Meanwhile, in the juvenile girls' category, Marlie Molinaro scored a 10th-place finish in the sprints to go with a 14th-place showing in the interval, 15th in the pursuit and 23rd in the mass start. Lastly, Sierra Pochay-McBain with a best result of 45th in the juvenile girls' sprints.

Peiffer will be in action at home this weekend for the North American Biathlon Championships at Whistler Olympic Park, an event she's looking forward to.

"I haven't really been doing biathlon much this season because there's been a lot going on for me, so I just took a break from it," she said. "Being in Whistler, I'm going to take the opportunity and do it.

"I haven't shot my rifle much recently, but I'm just going to go out, have fun with it and get back into things."

Racing starts at 10 a.m. each day with March 27 (sprints), March 28 (individual), March 30 (pursuit) and March 31 (relays) serving as race days.

Chief of competition Clay Whitman said more than 180 athletes are set to compete hard over the four days of competition.

"Conditions are great. We've got a little bit of snow and a sunny forecast for the next few days, so we're pretty excited about that," he said.

About half the field is from B.C. and Alberta, and most of the national team members are set to compete, Whitman said.

"The best biathletes in the country are here and you can get a great spot to view the action right up against the field of play," he said.

For more information, visit www.whistlerbiathlon.com.

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