Jordan McElroy was all of 60 pounds when he participated in his first Great Ski Race as a 10-year-old in 2004, and yet he managed to pass more than 500 racers, finishing in just over two hours. Racing alongside him was his father, Tom McElroy, a former national champion biathlete and U.S. National Biathlon Team member from 1978 to 1982.
At 10, McElroy was already a seasoned veteran of both Nordic and alpine skiing, having started both disciplines by the time he was 3. Not surprisingly, he also began competing locally in the annual 10th Mountain Division Biathlon held at the Auburn Ski Club. Between 2004 and 2009, McElroy won his age group each year. In 2011 and 2012, he won overall honors in the pro division as well.
Eight years later and nearly 100 pounds heavier than his Great Ski Race debut, McElroy is getting ready to embark on an even greater skiing adventure as he pursues full-time biathlon training with the Vermont National Guard later this month.
The sport of biathlon combines Nordic ski racing with rifle marksmanship. It started as a military exercise for Norwegian soldiers in the mid 19th century. The first world championship in biathlon was held in 1958 in Austria and two years later it debuted as an Olympic sport at Squaw Valley. In Europe it is one of the most popular winter spectator sports, covered widely on television and often drawing from 20,000 to 30,000 spectators to biathlon venues.-
Until last year, McElroy's only biathlon experience were local races. Last summer, he started training with former Olympian biathlete Glenn Jobe at the Auburn Ski Club. At that point, he decided to pursue biathlon on the national stage. Three trips to West Yellowstone, Mont., in November, December and March yielded excellent results, with McElroy finishing from first to sixth place in each of six races against nationally ranked competitors.-
Meanwhile, he was enjoying a record Nordic season as a senior and captain of the Truckee High School team, winning every league race, as well as the CNISSF State Championship.
McElroy spent much of this summer training with United States Biathlon Junior World team members and coaches, at the Olympic Training Centers in both Colorado Springs and Lake Placid, New York as well as in Jericho, Vt. He also raced in the NorAm Rollerski Biathlon Cup in Jericho. Despite a lingering heel injury, McElroy managed an impressive fourth-place finish (third American) in the sprint competition.-
With all the success of the past 10 months on the national scene, McElroy has decided to pursue biathlon training and competition more seriously as a member of the Vermont National Guard. While there are no intercollegiate biathlon teams in the United States, the National Guard has 30 state biathlon teams. Vermont is host to the Guard's National team, with top-notch coaching and training facilities.-
While McElroy's immediate goal will be to represent the United States on the international stage at the Junior World Championships over the next three years, his long-term goals include following in his father's ski tracks to a spot on the U.S. National Biathlon Team, and ultimately a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team. With the average age of a world-class biathlete being 32, the 18-year-old has many years (and Olympic opportunities) ahead of him to perfect his craft.