Above: The top three Iron Man Aggregate shooters were all from the AMU: First place Mike McPhail (center), second place George Norton (left), and third place Patrick Sunderman.
The 2017 NRA Conventional Prone National Smallbore Rifle Championship firing line was jam-packed with the nation’s hardest holders, Olympians, defending and former National Champions, and National Record holders. You couldn’t even walk across the breadth of the range without stepping on one.
The Championship opened when George Norton of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), the first person to ever win the Iron Man competition, won the first Metallic Sight Meter Match with a 400-35X. The legendary Nancy Tompkins captured the Dewar with a 400-29X, while Hank Gray punched out a 400-32X at 100 yards for his first victory.
Gray’s solid finish at 100 yards gave him an eight X edge over Norton for the first daily aggregate win, 1199-98X to 1199-90X. Olympian Mike McPhail, who piled up Xs at a phenomenal rate—102 out of a possible 120, placing third with a 1198.
After studying the weather radar, Match Director Tori Croft wisely declared a three hour rain delay on day two. The rain hit when the match was scheduled to start and stopped just short of three hours later—much to the relief of the competitors.
Defending National Champion Mark Del Cotto’s Meter Match score of 400-39X proved he was gunning for a repeat. The Dewar ended with the Stat Office going to the rules to give George Norton the win as he and Del Cotto tied with 35X cleans. McPhail shot a 400-36X at 100 yards to ring down the curtain on day two.
McPhail, 1200-108X, won the day, a scant X ahead of Del Cotto. Gray pulled into third with a 103Xs. Gray, who dropped a point in the first Dewar, emerged as the Metallic Sight Champion with a near perfect 2399-201X. McPhail was second, 2398-209X, and Norton, 2398-190X third.
Ed Foley was awarded the Robert Plimpton Trophy as High Metallic Sight Senior while Intermediate Metallic Senior honors went to Steve Angeli. Ruby Gomes and Malori Brown won High Junior and Intermediate Junior titles, respectively.
A productive competitors’ meeting closed out the day. Lones Wigger spoke to Camp Perry’s ranges being altered making it no longer suitable for smallbore rifle competition. Competitors made suggestions concerning smallbore rifle and the National Championships. Match staff took copious notes and asked questions. New NRA Competitive Shooting Director, Cole McCulloch, and the NRA Smallbore Committee Chair, Tom King, were both present during the week and had their ears bent by the competitors.
Still air, heat and humidity accompanied the start of any sights and it was soon evident that it would be a day decided by Xs. Del Cotto set the pace and the tone of the day, with a perfect 400-40X. Dan Pempel, of the Air Force, posted a 400-38X for a win in the Dewar.
With 13 perfect scores fired, McPhail’s outstanding 1200-113X, just a few Xs short of the National Record took the day. Hank Gray posted 1200-110X for second, while Eric Uptagrafft, 1200-109X, finished third.
The Dewar Trophy and Randle Cup International Postal Matches followed the individual competition. Kevin Nevius, assisted by wind coach Shawn Carpenter, fired a 396-25X on the British target for the highest Dewar score. Ginger McLemore was presented the “Fast Freddy” Scielzo plaque for being the most senior shooter on the team. Erin McNeil’s 400-33X netted her high gun on the U.S. Randle Team.
Another hot, humid, and windless day, under a threatening sky, marked the final day. Del Cotto’s near perfect 400-39X won a tie breaker with Michele Makucevich. Junior Erick “Skippy’ Hazelton punched out a 400-38X to win the Dewar. As the final 100-yard event began the sky darkened ominously—not deterring McPhail who shot a 400-37X at 100 yards to win. The drizzle turned into a hard rain, postponing the Team Matches.
Gray was perfect, one of eleven 1200s, with a 1200-108X for the win. Pempel and Del Cotto found themselves knotted up at 1200-106X. NRA Rules dictated that Pempel would be second and Del Cotto third.
Gray, the newly minted 2017 Metallic Sight Champion, did not falter and took the Any Sight Aggregate with a 2400-218X, Del Cotto, High Civilian, and Eric Uptagrafft tied in both number of points and Xs with a pair of 1400-106Xs. Del Cotto won the tie breaker.
Peter Church was the winner of the High Senior title, and the Intermediate Senior champion was Tompkins. Hazelton won High Junior and Kennadi Barker was the best Intermediate Junior.
After two consecutive years finishing second, Hank Gray proved that the third time would be the charm. His 4799-419X took home the Critchfield Trophy. He was challenged by McPhail, two points behind with an outstanding X count of 438 and Norton’s 4797-397X.
Morgen Dietrich was the High Civilian, winning the William P. Schweitzer Medal with a 4795-385X. Peter Church posted a 4790-336X for High Senior. Tompkins, 4794-392X, was Intermediate Senior champion. The Whittington Trophy went to Junior Billy Marciniak, the Intermediate Junior winner was Malori Brown, and Gomes earned High Expert honors.
The Black Hawk Ladies, Michelle Bohren, Michele Makucevich, Tompkins, and Ginger McLemore, coached by Dani Makucevich, shot a 1599-115X to win the Metallic Sight Team Title. They bested the Army by a point which was critical as the AMU had a 16-point advantage in the X-column. The Black Hawk Chiefs were in third shooting a 1597-117X.
The Ladies did not slack and posted a 1600-131X, the only clean of the day, to take the Any Sight Title and set a new Dewar National Record for women. The Black Hawk Chiefs fired a 1599-129X for second while the Black Hawk Veterans, all former service members, came in third with a 1598-121X.
The Black Hawk Ladies won the Team Aggregate Championship with a 3199-246X. The Black Hawk Chiefs, 3196-246X was second followed by Murray State, a team made up of the college’s alumni.
Mentor Dietrich teamed up with mentee Hazelton to win the coveted Randle Doubles Mentor Match.
The 2017 Prone Championships ended with the competitors enjoying a family-style dinner and awards ceremony. It was highlighted by an extensive awards table loaded with shooting accessories and ammunition. Each competitor got a chance to pick a prize based on order of finish—no one went home empty handed.
2017 NRA Conventional Position National Smallbore Rifle Championship
The Army’s Patrick Sunderman opened the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Conventional Position Rifle Championship with a 400-38X in prone. Moving into standing young Malori Brown, shot a 397-18X while Mike McPhail shot a 400-30X, to win the kneeling match. Sunderman won the National Smallbore Conventional Position Metallic Sight Championship with a score of 1596-114X, McPhail was second at 1595-124X. Jared Desrosiers outshot Antonio Gross, 1594-109X to 1594-104X, for third place.
Top Senior was Bill Beard. Paula Lambertz took home Intermediate Senior honors. The High Collegiate title went to Billy Marciniak. Jared Desrosiers was High Junior and Richard B. Clark won Intermediate Junior.
The paper team match saw the AMU card a 4766-338X, a 30-point pad on the second place Coast to Coast Team’s 4736-267X effort. The Illinois State Association was third with a 4679-210X.
While both shot a 400-37X, Emporia State University’s Megan Hilbish outshot McPhail for the win in the opening prone match of the Any Sight National Championship. George Norton’s 398-25X gave him the standing match victory. Hilbish came back strong and posted the only 400 in kneeling.
Winning two of the three Any Sight matches delivered the Any Sight, High Collegiate, and the D.I. Boyd Trophy to Hilbish, 1195-86X, who scraped by silver medalist Sunderman, 1195-83X. Norton and McPhail both had 1195s but Norton had 81Xs, just one X ahead of High Senior, Jeff Doerschler won Intermediate Senior. Antonio Gross was High Junior and Clark won his second Intermediate Junior crown.
Sunderman’s consistency paid off. His 2391-167X aggregate score earned him the Conventional Position title. McPhail came within a point of winning the tile. Had he tied Sunderman on points and his 168Xs, it would have leapt him over his teammate. Norton rounded out the top three—shooting a 2388-169X.
2017 NRA Metric Position National Smallbore Rifle Championship
Partly cloudy skies greeted the start of the Metric Position Championship the penultimate day of the 2017 NRA National Smallbore Rifle Championships.
George Norton led off with a 396-24X prone victory. Junior Antonio Gross broke the adult streak of wins in the second match when he posted a 378-9X standing.
Norton led the pack with a 772 over the first two matches, enjoying a five point lead going into kneeling. At this elite level, kneeling scores are often as good as prone—but today would not be one of those days. Olympian Bill Beard was top gun in the match with a 385-14X.
Despite a lunge to the finish line by civilians and juniors, the AMU shooters ended up sweeping the Metallic Sight Championship having built up enough points early on. In descending order, it was Norton, 1149-39X, McPhail, 1148-54X, and McNeil, 1147-43X who won out in the X count over Gross, 1147-43X, for third place.
McPhail opened the Any Sight Championship with a winning prone score of 399-30X. Standing saw Hilbish win with a commanding score of 384-16X. The final 40 shots of nine days of competition would be kneeling and Sunderman came through with a 388-19X for the win.
Norton, 1160-48X, won the day, a single point ahead of McPhail’s 1159-51X. Sunderman slid into third with an 1154-55X. McPhail took the Metric title three points ahead of Norton—4707-273X to 4708-256X. Sunderman rounded out the top three with a score of 4685-259X.
The final prone match (40 shots on the metric target with any sights) was the deciding factor in the Iron Man competition when McPhail beat Norton by four points. Over the eight-day match McPhail shot a 9504-711X, Norton a 9501-655X, and Sunderman a 9478-640X.
The last shot of the Any Sight Metric Position Championship marked the end of the 2017 Smallbore Championships.
Photos by Jim Powell