In the wake of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, the competitive shooting world was left in shambles. National Championships were cancelled, including those sponsored by the National Small-Bore Rifle Association of Great Britain (NSRA) and the National Rifle Association of America (NRA). With no NSRA Bisley Meeting or the NRA’s inaugural Camp Atterbury Rifle and Pistol Championships, the immediate future of the four major international prone postal matches—the Randle, Dewar, Wakefield and Drew—was in doubt.
The Randle Match could not go forward, as each association had cancelled its national Championship and Randle conditions require it to be shot at that event. New Zealand, with seasons that are opposite to the northern hemisphere, recently re-entered Randle competition and had already shot the Randle and submitted its scores to the match sponsor, the NRA. This made New Zealand the de facto 2020 Randle winners.
Rising to the occasion, Mike Chapman, chairman of the NSRA Rifle Committee, and Patti Clark, chairwoman of the NRA Smallbore Rifle Committee, quickly began to exchange emails. In the end, it was agreed that an official Dewar could not be shot because of the long distances that the U.S. Team would have to travel. Instead, each nation would field a Goodwill Dewar Team, where each team member could shoot a score at a home range under the watchful eye of a witness.
The NRA Smallbore Rifle Committee commissioned George Harris, already selected as the 2020 Dewar Team Captain, to assemble a team to shoot 20 shots at 50 yards and 20 more at 100 yards on the NSRA British Match 1989 Series Targets, alternatively on the equivalent NRA A-51 and A-33 targets.
Harris, armed with past Dewar rosters, contacted as many Dewar alumni as possible and marshalled Dan Altman, Steve Angeli, Michelle Bohren, Shawn Carpenter, Mike Carter, Daniel Erpenbach, Mark Gould, Joe Graf, Frank Linkowsky, Michele Makucevich, Jim Miller, Bill Neff, Lisette Grunwell-Lacy, Virginia McLemore, Kevin Nevius, Mike O’Connor, Howard Pitts, Chris Rakyta, Kerry Spurgin and Wes Schumaker to form the 2020 Goodwill Dewar Team. As of press time, the Certificate of Firing has not been made available.
The firing conditions for the Wakefield, a 10-person team with each member firing 60 shots prone on the ISSF 50-meter target, state, “Team members may shoot their cards on their home ranges under supervision of a witness appointed by their respective Association or all together at a place and time chosen by the Association. Should the cards be shot on home ranges the whole team must complete the shoot within the period of one week.” Under the circumstances, the NSRA made some adjustments, among them increasing the period of firing to three weeks and extending the score reporting deadline.
Under the new conditions, the NRA Smallbore Committee directed the 2020 Wakefield Captain and Coach, Hap Rocketto and Shawn Carpenter, to move forward with team selection and firing. Faced with time constraints and the Covid-19 restrictions, the leadership contacted Wakefield alumni from past teams who were still active competitors.
The pool was small, only about 30 individuals, and got smaller as some declined because of lack of range availability, or personal or business commitments. Invitations to shoot were tendered to the remaining candidates based on the average of past Wakefield scores, high to low until the roster of 10 was filled.
Well, 10 shooters answered the bell and shot the match between Sept. 6 and Sept. 26. The registered targets were returned to the captain and coach who witnessed Dr. Richard Hawkins—U.S. Coast Guard Academy head coach and Class A International Judge’s License awarded by the ISSF—score them. The Certificate of Firing was prepared and sent to Clark for transmittal to the NSRA.
The 2020 U.S. Wakefield Team consisted of Steve Angeli, 592-34X, Kevin Nevius, 589-33X, Joseph Graf, 589-33X, Mike O’Connor, 585-30X, Howard Pitts, 585-25X, Mike Carter, 582-20X, Ginger McLemore, 581-23X, Lisette Grunwell-Lacey, 578-18X, Jim Miller, 576-21X and George Harris, 577-22X. The team’s aggregate score is a 5834-212X, below the 5900 bar needed for a win in the past. As a side note, the U.S. holds the Wakefield Match record set during the inaugural match in 1991—a 5945.
The NSRA took its traditional approach of conducting trials for its Wakefield team, attracting 84 applicants before shooting the match. The Certificate of Firing is not yet public.
The NSRA made adjustments to the Willian Drew Junior Match, which allowed national associations to field teams by allowing them to follow the Wakefield conditions.
The U.S. Drew Team is usually selected at the NRA National Metric Outdoor National Position Championship based on scores drawn from the prone metallic sight stage. This year, the NRA took a different approach and shot the Drew on Oct. 17 at the Illinois State Rifle Club range in Bonfield, Ill. The match was under the leadership of Joe Miller, director of Central Illinois Precision Shooting.
Flyers inviting competitors to participate were widely distributed by several national smallbore rifle clubs. The effort was successful, as the match attracted not only local Illinois shooters, but also juniors who traveled from as far as Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and New York to participate.
A qualification English Match, 60 shots prone on the ISSF target by each individual, was fired in the morning to select 10 members and two alternates for the Drew Cup team. The same course-of-fire was shot for record in the afternoon. In addition, the top shooters from the morning qualification, who were not named to the team, served as wind coaches.
The Drew fields three teams, a 10-person team which competes for the William Drew Cup, a three-person men’s team and a three-person women’s team.
The wind was the big story. Gusting to above 35 mph, it blew backer boards out of the frames, but no targets were lost as eight clips did a good job holding them. The wind took its toll on the less experienced shooters. “Wait” and “Stop” were favorite commands from the wind coaches, as the wind was a challenging for both shooter and coach alike. The most notable aspect was the higher number of younger juniors who participated than in the past. This likely has to do with the fact that the National Championships were cancelled.
Miller, Captain (and shooter) David Denson and Coach Josie Peters called the team and coaches to the line. Sixty shots later, the match was in the record books. Dylan Gregory led the 10-person team with 572-20X. He was backed by John Hamilton, 569-17X, Allison Schultze, 566-16X, Adriana Schroeder, 564-17X, David Denson 564-15X, Emma Walraith, 564-14X, Anthony Hotko, 563-12X, Benjamin D’Angelo, 562-11X, Brian Aliventi, 559-12X and Qwendolyn “Winnie” Quiram, 557-13X. Alternates were Rylie Passmore and Morgan Droz. The team score of 5,640-143X reflected the tough wind conditions, and is higher than the score posted by the 2019 team which placed second with a 5623.
The three-person men’s team—Gregory, Hamilton and Hotko—scored 1705-48X while the three ladies, Schroeder, Schultze, and Walraith put up 1694-47X. Both scores are close to the 2019 team score. Considering the difference between the Bristol and Bonfield ranges, as well as the unique conditions this year, this performance is a reason for the juniors to hold their heads high—no matter the final outcome.
Dewar veteran Jim Miller acted as witness while Douglas Miller served as official scorer.
The Illinois State Rifle Association generously opened its club house to provide a warm spot to enjoy some hot pizza after the match.
So ends U.S. participation in the abbreviated 2020 International Postal Match schedule. The British official scores have not yet been reported, so it is anyone’s game at his point and, in these uncertain times, that may be the best we can hope for. For the latest updates, subscribe to the free SSUSA Insider newsletter.
Photo: With the Dewar and Wakefield being shot individually in far-flung locations, the only team that could pose for a group photograph was the Drew Cup Juniors. It is hoped that the Dewar and Wakefield Teams will be able to pose for a group shot at Camp Atterbury in 2021. From l. to r. (unmasked for the camera, but socially distanced for Covid-19): Rylie Passmore, Dave Denson, Brian Aliventi, John Hamilton, Adriana Schroeder, Qwendolyn “Winnie” Quiram, Dylan Gregory, Anthony Hotko, Benjamin D’Angelo, Allison Schultze, Emma Walraith and Morgan Drozs. (Photo courtesy of Joe Miller)