CAMP RIPLEY-Staff and equipment operators of the Roads & Grounds Department located at Camp Ripley are making the final preparations for the upcoming National Guard Biathlon Races to be held Feb. 26-Mar. 4.

Covering an area the size of two football fields and over 3 miles of ski trails, the National Guard Biathlon course, known as "F Range," is one of the best features within Camp Ripley's 53,000 acre training area.

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"Our biathlon course was built to meet or exceed standards in order to support and challenge our athletes," said Col. Scott St. Sauver, Camp Ripley garrison commander. "While this year has created some challenges, we owe it to them to have the course in the best condition possible."

Since the change in the climate earlier in February led to a slow melt for most of central Minnesota, the Road & Grounds Department at Camp Ripley has been keeping a close watch on the conditions of the biathlon course. The insurances needed to keep the course in serviceable order were slowly beginning to run short as the weather forecast called for not only warmer temps but rain.

"We checked trail conditions daily, hoping that the change to the weather would not affect too much," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Keith Silbernick, event coordinator.

Since Monday, truckloads of snow have been hauled to the range along with grooming equipment to assist in maintaining Camp Ripley's standards of providing the best support, facilities and resources which enabling customers to train in a realistic environment.

The 41st Annual Chief of the National Guard Bureau Biathlon Championships will be held at Camp Ripley Feb. 26-Mar. 4, 2016. National Guard athletes from all over the country will come to Camp Ripley to test their skills of endurance and marksmanship.

"We have been working hard for this event," said Sgt. Jacob Dalberg of the Minnesota Biathlon Team. "We have focused on the quality of our workout and prepared for 'Champ.'"

This year Minnesota is bringing back six veteran skiers along with a few new faces to the biathlon team.

The public is welcome to attend the races which will take place starting at 9 a.m. each morning from Feb. 28 through Mar. 3. The opening ceremonies will be held at 8 a.m. on Feb. 27.