by Sgt. 1st Class Julius Clayton, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit - Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The 2017 Precision Class National Champion, Macey Way of Colorado Springs, CO, competes during the U.S. Army Junior Air Rifle National Championship Jan. 28 at the Pool International Indoor Range Complex. Precision air rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and equipment.
Staff Sgt. George Norton, from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s International Rifle Team, mentors Levi Carlson from Nation Ford, SC, during the U.S. Army Junior Air Rifle National Championship. Carlson finished second in the individual shooter finals for the Sporter Class.
Some of the top junior shooting teams in the country displayed their accurate air gun skills at the 2017 U.S. Army Junior Air Rifle National Championship, held in January at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s (AMU) Pool International Indoor Range Complex, Fort Benning, GA.
More than 150 competitors from 13 teams qualified to compete at this year’s national championship—which for the first time included a smallbore rifle match to kick off the event previously limited to competition air rifles only.
Matthew Sanchez, a junior member of the Central Florida Rifle and Pistol Club out of Orlando, FL, became the inaugural champion for this match. "Smallbore is an event that many past participants and coaches had continually asked to be included in the competition," said Sgt. 1st Class Hank Gray, AMU International Team coach and the non-commissioned officer in charge of this year’s championship.
After the smallbore contest was completed, nearly all of this year’s competitors attended a clinic conducted by AMU Soldiers, Staff Sgt. George Norton from the International Rifle Team and 2016 United States Olympian Spc. Daniel Lowe.
The two marksmen discussed a range of topics with the junior athletes including mental preparation, dealing with failure, having self-confidence and enjoying the journey of being a competitive marksman.
“This is an opportunity for young people from all over the country to come out and compete against each other. We run a clinic and do a lot of mentoring with the competitors, teaching them what we have learned during our experiences connecting America’s people with America’s Army,” said Lowe.
Roy McClain, director of the Georgia Youth Shooting Sport Foundation said, “I believe it is a tremendous opportunity for these young competitive shooters to interact with their Olympic heroes and be given training and guidance by them.”
This sentiment was echoed by the competitors and their coaches.
“I was able to shoot with a team for the first time … and meet with some Olympians and other high quality marksman who taught me some great lessons on technique, dealing with stress and preparing myself properly for competitions,” said Taylor Christian, a precision rifle junior athlete with the Spokane Rifle Club-Gold out of Spokane, WA.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Arnold Lewis, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Class Instructor and coach from Pueblo, Colorado and the Pueblo County High School said, “Having the AMU Soldiers and Olympians give these young people instruction on how to be better shooters, as well as, better citizens, is an awesome opportunity."
The next two days featured matches in both the sporter and precision rifle classes. Each day culminated in finals that pitted the top eight shooters from each class against one another. Finals consisted of 10 rounds in standing, scored to a tenth of a point.
Athletes who qualified for both finals had their top final score added to the qualification scores to determine the overall winners.
The 2017 Sporter Class individual National Champion is Erin Young from Pueblo, CO. Her coach, Lewis, was appreciative of the opportunity his young athletes received at this year’s championships.
“I believe being here at this competition is very beneficial to my young marksmen as it gives them motivation to do their best against other young shooters from around the country,” said Lewis.
The 2017 Precision Class Individual National Champion is Macey Way from Colorado Springs, CO.
Team champions were determined by the overall compilation of scores from each member.
The 2017 Sporter Class Team National Champion is Nation Ford Marine Corps JROTC from Fort Mill, SC. This team included Levi Carlson, Patrick Daniels, Marcus Stallings, Deonte Hayes, and alternate Preston Jaeger.
Sporter rifle competition during USAJARNC included three-position firing in prone, standing and kneeling. Juniors shot 20 rounds in a time limit of 20 minutes for prone and kneeling and 20 rounds in 25 minutes for standing.
The 2017 Army Junior Precision Class National Champion Team is National Training Center Shooting Club from Colorado Springs, CO.
This team included the top three individual finishers in the precision class competition: Macey Way, the national champion, and the second and third place overall finishers, Ruby Gomes and Hailee Sigmon.
Precision rifle consisted of two 60-shot matches with a time limit of 75 minutes for each match.
The weekend culminated in an awards banquet conducted by the AMU, in which the top three finishers in each category received a trophy and medal for their accomplishments.
“The AMU is a wonderful host and soldiers of this unit make this event a great opportunity for these young athletes to compete at this level,” said McClain.
“The Army provides world-class facilities, excellent leadership from senior non-commissioned officers and instills the discipline needed to become a champion, and I am grateful for that,” said Lowe in summing up the weekend’s events.
“The biggest lesson I took out of this weekend was learning how to shoot better,” said Christian. “Being here has not only helped me become a better marksman, but also a better person overall, and I had a great time and hope to come back next year."
The AMU supports the nation’s youth by fostering junior participation in noteworthy state and national rifle competitions, promoting firearms safety and connecting the nation’s youth with the expertise and professionalism of the Army and its Soldiers.
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s mission is winning national and international shooting competitions and to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability and enhance marksmanship effectiveness in combat. The AMU is part of the U.S. Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade and Army Marketing and Research Group.
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