From the archives: SSUSA coverage of the 2014 U.S. F-Class National Championships, story and photos by Larry Bartholome. As published in the January 2015 issue of the digital magazine.
One hundred sixty-nine F-Class shooters from around the USA, Australia and Canada converged on the Ben Avery Shooting Facility outside of Phoenix, AZ, in October 2014 to compete for the titles of USA National F/TR and F-Open Champions. In the end, many old records were broken and new records were set for the 160-shot individual course-of-fire shot for the first time this year. All F-Class Nationals shooting was conducted at 1000 yards.
Phoenix had been undergoing a heat wave the prior week during the Long-Range Regional warm up (no pun intended) matches and there was no let-up during the Nationals. Phoenix weather records show a high of 88 with humidity of 52 percent on the first day. The last day of the championships had a high of 83 with 61 percent humidity and this was the coolest day. Believe me, 52 to 61 percent is very high humidity for this area. High temperatures during the week were 91, 94 and 95 degrees with sun beating down from a cloudless sky. I felt like a broiled lobster. In spite of this, the scores were exceptionally high.
The winds on the first day were quite low but ever changing. With only 5 inches from the center of the X-ring to the edge of the 10-ring, a 1 mph or so pick up or let off could put you in the 9-ring in a second. It was truly a case of: “If you snooze, you lose.”
Three strings of 20 shots were fired at 1000 yards the first day and the F/TR leaderboard was a battle of champions.
Mark Walker 599-23X Jim Crofts 593-27X
Dan Biggs 597-37X Derek Rogers 593-23X
John Myers 596-29X Brad Suave 588-19X
At day’s end, F/TR competitor James Crofts, the 2012 Champion, had the lead. Derek Rodgers, 2013 Champion, locked in second place with a record 200-12X on his second string, breaking his own record of 200-11X that was set a few days earlier in the Arizona Long-Range Regional. Third place belonged to Brad Sauve, three-time champion (2004, 2006 and 2007). Hanging in fourth and someone to watch out for was Raton, NM’s own Trudie Fay with 587-17X.
On the other side of the house, F-Open shooter and U.S. Open Team Vice-Captain Mark Walker lead the pack with a 599-29X (200-11X, 199-9X and 200-9X). Two points back was two-time F/TR National Champion Dan Biggs. Dan shot a 200-12X on his second string. In third was John Myers’ 596-29X. John cleaned the first and last string, but lost four points on the second. Seven people were within five points of Mark, and the Championships were still young.
Did I mention it was hot? The only things cool were the free ice water bottles and the inside of the air conditioned port-a-potties. Yes, I said air conditioned.
David Gosnell 596-31X Derek Rogers 589-26X
John Meyers 596-28X Trudie Fay 589-25X
Larry Bartholome 596-28X Brad Suave 589-24X
Day two weather was a repeat of the first, only hotter. Another three strings of 20 shots were fired at 1000 yards. In the F/TR division it was a tight race, with the top three all shooting 589s. These scores juggled the aggregate list a bit, with Derek Rodger taking the lead with an 1182-49X. Second went to Jim Crofts’ 1179-48X, followed by Brad Sauvé's 1177-43X and Trudie Fay’s 1176-39X.
At the close of firing in F-Open, there were six 596 scores shot. This shook up the running aggregate standings a bit with John Myers moving to the top with 1192-57X. David Gosnell would move to second with an 1190-65X. In third place was Dan Biggs with an identical 1190-65X. My habit of shooting for 10s put me in fourth with an 1190-57X.
Day 3 was Team Day and you could cut the excitement with a knife. F-Class Nationals Team Day is the big day. The team matches are always hard fought and scores are always close, coming down to one or two points or Xs. Eleven F/TR and 16 F-Open teams participated.
This Team Day was different that all previous ones because it was Halloween. America’s best loved family of long-range shooting—the Gallagher-Tompkins clan, decided to make things merrier. Michelle Gallagher’s Long Shot team dressed up as Snow White and the four (not so small) dwarfs. Her mother Nancy Tompkins’ team, the Spindle Shooters wore Mickey Mouse ears and long tails. They actually shot in the costumes, and there were other costumes around the firing line.
There are two team matches, and an aggregate of the two which determines the National Team Champions. Four shooters fire 20 shots at 1000 yards for a possible score of 800-80X in each of two matches. A team can consist of 4 shooters, a coach and team captain. The wind was light for the first of the two matches but very twitchy.
In F/TR, Team Sinclair coached by Ray Gross won gold. The X-Men, ably coached by James Crofts locked in the silver medals. Michigan F/TR Blue coached by Berger Bullets ballistician Bryan Litz won the bronze.
Something very unusual happened on the F-Open end of the line. The Long Shots team coached by Michelle Gallagher set up on the line in their very hot Halloween costumes and David Gosnell fired a 200-14X. Michelle then coached David Bailey to a 200-9X. We then had a pit change and I started scoring their team. The third shooter, Mark Walker shot 200-10X. I was starting to see history made. The last shooter, Ken Dickerman fired his sighters and they seemed to be all over the place, but then settled down. Michelle indicated they were going for record. I marked down nothing but 10s and Xs as Michelle gave Ken wind changes. When they passed the 15-shot point I was getting nervous as I am sure everyone was. As Ken loaded shot 17, I knew I was watching history in the making and crossed my fingers, hoping they would not drop a point. I need not have worried. The last three shots were all in the middle and Ken had scored a final 200-9X for a total team score of 800-42X. This is the first-ever 800-point team score in the history of F-Class. They won the Skip Talbot Trophy.
Team Day―Match 1
Long Shots 800-42X Team Sinclair 792-38X
Team Grizzly 795-44X X-Men 786-37X
Tex-Mex 791-34X Michigan Blue 782-29X
The closest team to the Long Shots was Team Grizzly coached by Trudy Fay. The TEX-MEX team coached by Pat Roger won third place. Team Berger, coached by Jim Murphy (who also shot) was seven points back. After a short break and celebration of the new record, firing began on the second match of the aggregate. By this time, the wind gods stopped being nice and as one Canadian shooter said, “Wow, seriously wonky air.” Consequently, the scores started to drop.
In F/TR the X-Men won the gold, Michigan Blue won silver and Team Sinclair the bronze for the second match of the day.
Team Day―Match 2
Team Berger 782-34X X-Men 765-20X
3rd Generation 780-25X Michigan Blue 763-18X
Team Grizzly 777-25X Team Sinclair 763-13X
The leaderboard changed a lot during the F-Open second match due to the wind. Team Berger’s Jim Murphy, with help from Dan Biggs, coached the team to a Shiraz Balolia Trophy win. The 3rd Generation Shooters team, coached by Scott Fulmer, won the silver. Team Grizzly came in third for the bronze medals.
The F/TR Team Grand Aggregate standings remained the same as the first match even though the second match standings changed. Team Sinclair won the aggregate gold medals; the X-Men took the silver and Michigan Blue the bronze.
Team Day―Grand Aggregate
Team Grizzly 1572-69X Team Sinclair 1555-51X
Team Berger 1570-67X X-Men 1551-57X
3rd Generation 1570-63X Michigan Blue 1545-47X
In F-Open the Grand Aggregate places changed a lot due to the wind. Team Berger’s win in Match 2 allowed them to move up to second place in the aggregate. The 3rd Generation Shooters team coached by Scott Fulmer was second in Match 2 giving them third place in the team aggregate. Team Grizzly’s score in this match combined with their score in the first match moved them up to a F-Open Team Championships wining 1572-69X and gave them the gold medals and the Berger Trophy.
Saturday was the last day of the individual F-Class Championships and consisted of two 20-shot strings to bring the Championship total possible points to a 1600-160X. The weather had a bit of a change with max temperature dropping to 83 and occasional cloud cover. The winds picked up also and varied quite bit. I put a minute right on my 7-270 WSM so I would not have to chance holding off the target. I held from the center to edge of the black with that minute on during my strings. God only knows how much the F/TR shooters were holding off or putting on.
Emil Kovan 398-17X Jim Crofts 395-11X
Ben Milam 396-17X William Litz 394-18X
Pat Scully 396-17X Derek Rodgers 391-16X
F/TR shooter Jim Crofts’ outstanding score for day four gave him a 1574-59X total, the gold medal and title of 2014 F/TR National Champion. Derek Rodgers slipped on Day 4 and it cost him the National Championships. His 1573-65X gave him the silver medal. William Litz’s fine score gave him aggregate of 1563-58X and the bronze medal. Also winning awards in F/TR were High Grand Senior Kenneth York, High Senior Jim Murphy, High Woman, Laura Perry and High Junior Mitchell Fitzpatrick.
The last day was a day of change for the F-Open lineup also. The wind was changing rapidly and, if you missed it―you dropped points quickly. Emil Kovan had the high daily score with a 398-17X. This was outstanding shooting, given the conditions. Everyone else who was in the lead (except for Dan Biggs) dropped too many points. In the end, 2013 World Champion Kenny Adams won the bronze, Dan Biggs the silver medal and Emil Kovan won the gold medal and the title of 2014 F-Open National Champion.
Individual Grand Aggregate
Emil Kovan 1587-83X Jim Crofts 1574-59X
Dan Biggs 1585-83X Derek Rodgers 1573-65X
Kenny Adams 1585-61X William Litz 1563-58X
Other F-Open winners were Dan Biggs as the High Grand Senior, Shiraz Balolia as the High Senior, Christine Harris with High Woman and Rhys Ireland came down from Canada to win the Junior Champion title.
A ton of medals, cash and donated prizes were awarded to the competitors at the awards dinner. Many thanks are due to the companies that supported the event. It was also announced that Nightforce Optics would be paving the parking lot at the 1000-yard range and Berger Bullets will build a classroom/stat building.
See more: Some "Ancient" F-Class History.