Most student-athletes leave behind the title of three-sport athlete once they graduate high school and dedicate their time to a single sport in college.
Not St. Cloud State graduate student Cheresa Bouley. She’s anything but ordinary.
The Zimmerman native will wrap up her final semester at SCSU this spring with a master’s degree and four years of competition on the Huskies’ cross country, Nordic ski and track and field teams.
But a fourth sport is what she’s known for on the national level.
Last month Bouley participated in the biathlon in the Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, New York, finishing as the top American in multiple events.
Biathlon combines skiing and rifle shooting, mixing in multiple stations of trying to shoot targets from a standing position and a prone position on the ground.
Bouley started skiing in middle school, and ideas of competing in biathlon followed quickly. Bouley’s parents knew Kara Salmela (Hermanson) from high school, who had competed in the event at the 1998 Winter Olympics.
There was also a nearby biathlon range in Elk River at Woodland Trails Park. She borrowed a rifle from the biathlon range builder Dave Anderson, who had two daughters in the sport, and quickly got into it.
She competed infrequently for a few years, and Bouley said she didn’t spend too much time dedicated to the sport before college. That changed during her freshman year at St. Cloud State as she began to put in more work.
“I practiced shooting more … you don’t hit targets right away,” Bouley said. “Freshman year is when it clicked and I started hitting targets. It didn’t come naturally, but with practice I could do it.”
Her first international competition came in January 2022 at the International Biathlon Union Junior Cup in Slovenia, followed only months later by an appearance at the IBU Junior World Championships in Utah.
“You have to work really, really hard at that level,” Bouley noted. “Everybody is so close, it takes a lot of work to improve. I learned everyone is so good.”
Her best performances for Team USA came last month from Jan. 12-22 at the Winter World University Games, a multi-sport winter event that only trails the Winter Olympics in size. University students between the ages of 17 and 25 are eligible to enter.
Bouley competed in five events, with her best finish coming in 14th place for the 12.5k mass start race. She was either the first or second American finisher in all four individual events and also participated in the mixed gender relay.
While her week didn’t start as well as she’d like, her shooting steadily improved with daily practice and Bouley finished they week with her best performance.
Shooting is at a premium, especially when missed shots can result in standing penalties, time penalties added post-race or skiing penalty loops. While being a fast skier is essential, Bouley said a good shooting day usually leads to a good result.
But between four sports and a graduate degree, how does she find the hours to make it happen?
“It definitely requires time management for sure,” Bouley said about competing in multiple sports simultaneously. “I try to give myself a break sometimes, but I can’t have too many. With the combination of Nordic and biathlon, there hasn’t been a weekend I haven’t been racing.”
Bouley qualified for state tournaments in cross country, Nordic and track and field at Zimmerman High School. Success has followed at the college level, earning individual All-Academic status from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association for finishing in the top 30 percent of the Central Region Championships this fall while excelling in the classroom.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot; I like being a part of a team,” Bouley said. “I love to run and love to ski, and I can’t choose between them, so I decided to do everything. It’s been a lot of fun and been rewarding for sure.”
Bouley will be graduating this spring with a master’s degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology, with plans down the road to become a professor and teach about her passion of an active lifestyle.
But for now, her plans post-SCSU are firmly set on full-time training as a biathlete.
“That’s the next big goal is to be at the Olympics,” Bouley said. “I think it’s possible.”
Italy 2026? Just wait and see.