AUBURN — About 20 athletes braved frigid conditions Sunday at Lost Valley to compete in a paintball biathlon.

In a small building adjacent to the lodge, 12 kids, mostly about 10 and 11 years old, chattered noisily as one of the mothers pinned and repinned competitor numbers on their jackets.

With no adult competitors in sight early on, Lost Valley co-owner Connie King said, “The little ones may have been the only ones brave enough,” referring to the heavy wind gusts whipping up fresh snow from Saturday night.

A wind advisory had been issued by the National Weather Service for Sunday into Monday. The warning included wind chills below zero and wind gusts up to 57 mph.

The children’s group was brought out to the target area and allowed a closely supervised practice session. The kids were then shown where they would run their three laps, stopping twice to shoot at five targets.

The three-lap foot race is timed; however, each target hit deducts from the final time and targets missed add to the final time. Winning the foot race does not mean a competitor wins the biathlon.


King said Lost Valley donated the space for the biathlon, a first for the ski area, that was put on by Tom Kendall and his company, Bart Race Services. King said this event was “just to get the kinks out” for a ski-and-shoot event planned for Winterfest in January.

Kendall, whose company provides timing services to a variety of New England racing events, spent much of the event coordinating with volunteers manning targets, registration and timing equipment.

Kendall said the race was a volunteer effort and the $5 registration fee was just to cover paint and other incidentals. The long-term hope is to grow interest in biathlons in the area.

Unable to use ordinary paintballs below freezing, Kendall said, “You’ve got to have the right paint for cold,” calling for cold weather or “graffiti” paint.

Ten-year-old Conner Saunders of New Gloucester made quick work of his practice round, quickly hitting his targets. “Pretty easy,” Saunders said with a huge grin.

Nearby, Alison and John Merrill of New Gloucester watched the boys while moving about to stay warm. Nine of the 12 young competitors were guests of the Merrill’s for their son Cameron’s 11th birthday.


“It’s a brisk, brisk day,” Alison Merrill said. “We wanted to do a paintball party,” Merrill said,” but they were closed.” She said they found out about the biathlon and their plans were back on.

Once the kids had finished their practice round, they spent the rest of the time prior to the race running up a nearby hill and rolling down in turn.

Nearby, 18-year-old Katey Rodzen was not enjoying the weather. “It’s freezing,” exclaimed Rodzen, who had heard about the event from a flier.

Rodzen said she’s run three 5ks and played paintball before. Although confident about her skills, she was not so sure about the weather. “I’m going to get frostbite,” she said through clenched teeth.

Morgen Ray, 14, of Harrison awaited his race, saying he has competed in cross-country and played paintball a couple of times. More of a strategist, Ray said he prefers to take cover and shoot, a method nearby Rodzen called “running away.”

The kid’s race was held first, with groups starting several seconds apart to prevent bunching at the target range.


First place went to Will Mains, 11, of Gray, who said the event was “really exciting.” Mains attributed his victory to a combination of shooting and running skills.

Mains said that his soccer skills helped. He said he’d never shot a paintball gun before — only real firearms.

In the adult division, Adam West of Auburn topped the field of eight with a time of 23:13 and six of 15 targets.

West said,”It was a blast,” even though he had never shot a paintball gun before. He said the shooting portion was tough for him.

“The weather made it a little more interesting,” said West, who described the running portion as moments of hot and cold depending on wind, location and how he adjusted his hat.

West said the fresh snow added traction in some places and detracted from others.


Katy and Ben Dyer from Durham ran and finished as a couple. “It was fun,” Katy said. “The weather wasn’t bad once  you got going. I’m glad we came.” Dyer said the event was very well organized and ran smoothly.

Ben Dyer said the event was a lot of fun and “something different to do,” adding, that “the hills are a lot steeper when you’re not skiing on them.”

He said that although he had never shot a paintball gun before, he simply used his first shot to figure out where to place the next four. It must have worked, because Dyer hit 13 out of 15 targets.

“All in all, I think it went well,” volunteer Jamie Smyth said. Smyth, a former Marine, lent a hand at the target range, making sure all competitors stayed safe and had fun. Smyth also made a point to ask attendees how things went and if they had any suggestions.

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