Team USA 7th at World Cup mixed relay in Nove Mesto

Photos from the relay events at the IBU World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, on February 6, 2015

Feb. 06, 2015, 12:57 p.m. (ET)

NOVE MESTO, Czech Republic (February 6, 2015) - With 32,000 biathlon fans screaming in the night air, the American squad of Susan Dunklee (Barton, Vt.), Hannah Dreissigacker (Morrisville, Vt.), Leif Nordgren (Marine, Minn.) and Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.) turned in a strong 7th-place performance in the mixed relay as the IBU World Cup in Nove Mesto got underway Friday.

Dunklee started things off for the U.S. as the temperatures dropped and the wind died down. After using two spares in prone, Dunklee found herself in 17th place, 28.6 seconds back of the leader. She used two more spares in standing but had the team up to 10th place as she exited the range 40.7 seconds down. Dunklee put on a strong last lap to bring the U.S. up to fourth place as she exchanged with Dreissigacker, now just 33 seconds out from the lead.

"I didn't shoot as well as I am capable of tonight, but I felt great about my skiing and I had a lot of fun chasing people down during my last lap," said Dunklee.

Dreissigacker used three spares to slip to seventh in the prone stage, and two more spares in standing dropped the American squad down to 10th as she completed the 6-kilometer women's loop and tagged off to Nordgren, now trailing the head of the race by 1:24.3.

Nordgren cleaned prone to bring the U.S. up to sixth and cut the deficit from the leaders down to 1:06, just three seconds from fifth place. He moved up to fifth on the second-to-last lap of the third leg and then moved the team back into fourth place by using just one spare in standing. Nordgren left the range 1:29 back of the leader and kept the U.S. in fourth as he tagged off to teenager Doherty for the final 7.5km leg, 1:36 back.

"I was really happy with the race today for my part," stated Nordgren. "This whole year I've struggled to put both good shooting and good skiing together on the same day. Today, I did just that, so I think I can be happy that things seem to be moving in the right direction as we approach world championships in Finland next month. I really like the tracks here in Nove Mesto. I think they suit me perfectly. Combine that with the near perfect snow conditions that we've had all week and it just makes it really nice skiing."

Doherty used one spare in prone and two in standing to slip to fifth place as he sprinted for the finish on the final lap. He was passed by France's Martin Fourcade on the last lap and then was narrowly nipped at the line by 0.2 seconds by Germany's Benedikt Doll. In the end, the U.S. team used 13 spares but no penalty laps to place seventh in 1:15:13.0.

"Under the lights racing in front of 30,000-plus spectators, there is nothing quite like it," Dunklee added. "Our team came within .2 seconds of being in the flower ceremony tonight and I think we will be in the fight again at world championships. Everyone had a great leg -- Hannah skied with Darya (Domracheva) and Marie Dorin (Habert), some of the top ladies in the field, Leif move us up several places and young Sean performed beautifully in the anchor position with the likes of Martin Fourcade and Jakob Fak breathing down his neck."

"As a team we all decided last night that we'd like to finish ahead of our bib number (7), so it was really close today," Nordgren said. "Everyone from the team put in a really good effort, but sometimes it comes down to a few centimeters."

The Norwegian team of Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, Tiril Eckhoff, Johannes Thingnes Boe and Tarjei Boe won the mixed relay in 1:12:49.2 with six spare rounds. They finished just 4.1 seconds ahead of the home team Czech Republic, with five spare rounds. Third place went to Ukraine, 1:21.3 back, with a penalty and seven spares. Full results of the mixed relay are available here.

Earlier in the day, Russia's Yana Romanova and Alexey Volkov won the inaugural single mixed relay in 35:43.5, with five spare rounds. Volkov took the lead for good after the final standing stage which he cleaned with five shots. Second place went to Norway, with three spare rounds, 21.5 seconds back. Ukraine, with eight spare rounds, finished third, 24.6 seconds back. The U.S. team of Annelies Cook (Saranac Lake, N.Y.) and Tim Burke (Paul Smiths, N.Y.) placed seventh in 1:15:13.0, with 13 spare rounds, 2:23.8 behind Norway.

The single mixed relay format has the female team member starting. After shooting both prone and standing she tags off to her male teammate who also shoots both prone and standing before tagging off to the same female. Each competitor on the team completes four bouts of shooting and the associated ski loops, with the female covering 6km and the male 7.5km.

"Today was definitely a fun race," said Burke. "It was great to try something different with the sprint relay after competing in the same formats for many years. I was pleased with the result today. It's always good to be in the top 10. Sprinting and then shooting makes for an interesting combination, which definitely makes the shooting quite tough. The conditions were also quite challenging here today with heavy wind gusts. I expect to see more of the same this weekend, so today's race was good practice."

Full results of the single mixed relay are available here.

Competition continues Saturday with the men's and women's sprints. Dunklee, Dreissigacker, Cook and Clare Egan (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) will compete in the women's 7.5km sprint, while Burke, Nordgren and Doherty will race in the men's 10km event. The U.S. team is without Olympian Lowell Bailey (Lake Placid, N.Y.) this week in Nove Mesto as he recovers from an illness.

Mixed 2x6+2x7.5km relay

1. Norway (Horn, Eckhoff, J. Boe, T. Boe) 1:12:49.2/0+6
2. Czech Republic (Vitkova, Soukalova, Slesingr, Moravec) 1:12:53.3/0+5
3. Ukraine (Varvynets, Semerenko, Pidruchnyi, Semenov) 1:14:10.5/1+7
7. USA (Dunklee, Dreissigacker, Nordgren, Doherty) 1:15:13.0/0+13

Mixed kilometer relay

1. Russia (Romanova, Volkov) 35:43.3/+0
2. Norway (Olsbu, L'Abee-Lund) 36:04.8/+0
3. Ukraine (Dzhyma, Tyshchenko) 36:07.9/+0
9.  USA (Cook, Burke) 38:23.0/+0