BOZEMAN – Every winter, you can find Ariana Woods practicing at Cross Cut Mountain Sports Center near the Bridger Mountains. She’s a biathlete and her love started only three years ago.
“I did a tryout biathlon thing in the spring of 2014 after going to junior nationals for cross country skiing. They were like, ‘Oh come try it,’ I was like ‘Okay,’” said Ariana Woods.
The Idaho native spends her winters in Bozeman, where her family owns a house. She’s always been a talented Nordic skier, but once she picked up a rifle, she excelled.
“I went into biathlon and I was like, ‘Woah! this is another animal basically. It’s like adding a game to the sport,” Woods smiled.
A year her biathlon career, Woods went to Alaska to the World Junior Biathlon Qualifiers.
“I didn’t even know I was trying to qualify for anything because I wasn’t and then I flew back home and we were in the airport and they were like, ‘You made the team!’ And I was like, ‘What team?’” said Woods.
She was surprised to learn that she had qualified for the World Junior team and she would be headed to compete in Romania. At 16-years-old that trip solidified her love and dedication for the sport. Fast forward two more years and now Ariana is one of the best biathletes in the world at her age group.
On Wednesday the 18-year-old competed in Minnesota to once again qualify for the World Junior Championships in Estonia. But her goals go beyond just the Junior World team, she is a potential candidate for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“It would be crazy, just going to the World Junior Championships in Romania was so eye-opening, but going to the Olympics would be pretty awesome,” Woods said. “The US biathlon women are coming up and they’re are getting better every year, it’s definitely a possibility.”
She knows it will take a lot of work, and sacrifice. Ariana travels all over the country and globe for the sport, so she is completing high school online with Idaho Virtual Academy. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You have other students in the class and you have real teachers,” Woods said. “It’s amazing. I could not imagine being tied down to one place. It’s amazing to be just free and go wherever.”
But the Olympics needs to wait, because Woods is putting her education as a top priority.
“I have college coming up so I need to figure out that first,” said Woods
And her education may bring her right back to Bozeman. Ariana has been accepted to her top college choice, Montana State, where she wants to pursue a degree in environmental science while also training with their biathlon program.
Even though this 18-year-old has a lot to juggle, with school, her sport, and possibly representing her country. she loves the responsibility.
“It’s a lot, but I like goals,” Woods said. “I like having something to look forward to.