Results: 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship

The 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship was held at the Wyoming Antelope Club in Pinellas Park, Fla., in January.

by
posted on March 23, 2024
2024Florida Uspsachampionship 1
Pistol-caliber carbine competitor Mike Howell at the 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship, held at the Wyoming Antelope Club in Pinellas Park, Fla., this past January. He is also a seasoned range master who mentors prospective range masters.
Photo by Jordan Binion

Well, if you weren’t there, you should have been. A solid crew at the Wyoming Antelope Club presented another spectacular Florida State USPSA Championship to kick off the 2024 USPSA competitive shooting season. Match Directors Dan Bernard and Mark Walker led another top-notch staff to administer 10 great stages full of fun and challenging technical aspects that we’ve all come to expect at this match.

Devin McManus & Luther Hyslop
Devin McManus and Luther Hyslop at the 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship, held at the Wyoming Antelope Club in Pinellas Park, Fla., in January.

 

Located between the densely populated urban areas of Saint Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida, and the greater Tampa Bay area, the Wyoming Antelope Club (WAC for short) boasts one of the more active and diverse action-shooting ranges in the state. As such, the talent that emerges from this club is nothing short of excellent when it comes to hosting and running major matches. Under the leadership of Bernard and Walker over the past several years, the WAC Action Shooters have made noticeable improvements to the facilities, including improvements to the action bays and supporting infrastructure around the range. This is no easy task to manage and coordinate for any club, let alone in an all-volunteer sport, but the WAC Action Shooters consistently stand out in Florida, setting a fine example for clubs around the country to emulate.

One thing that really sets Bernard and Walker’s matches apart is consistency and attention to detail. Anyone who has ever run or staffed a major match will generally think “we are our own worst critics,” but Bernard and Walker take this to the next level through their rigorous after-action review process, incorporating lessons learned match-to-match into all that they do. Another key to their success—developing a solid bench of local talent for staffing major matches. Bernard and Walker take a proactive, methodical approach in creating opportunities to train and certify new range and chief range officers, range masters and stats gurus, among other critical match staff positions—many of whom routinely now volunteer to work USPSA national-level matches on a regular basis. Involved just as much, if not more, are several other key folks who are always assisting with the training, mentoring and development of newer match staff members so that it is a collective team effort and not simply a top-down approach. Additionally, Mike Howell, who is a certified range master and has been learning the finer points of the stats job over the last year, takes care to work with up-and-coming range masters, such as Dan Hooey, who was recently accepted into the range master training program and made his range master training debut at this match. In this manner, everyone has a stake in the game and is responsible for the club’s reputation and collective success.

Luther Hyslop
Luther Hyslop tackling Stage 10 “Happy Feet” at the 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship.

 

Capitalizing on the success from the 2023 Florida State USPSA Championship, and lessons from past matches, the WAC Action Shooters put nine creative, fun and challenging stages on the ground, along with a 10th standard classifier stage, “Righty Tighty,” for 2024. (The classifier was Stage 8.) Spread out across the WAC range like before in recent history, seven stages were located down at the main action shooting bay area, with the other three closer to the clubhouse on stand-alone multi-purpose bays.

Brandon Wiuff, who competed in the match for the first time, said, “the Florida State match was fun and challenging. The match diretor made an extremely fun match out of the limited space he had, and there were interesting shooting positions to challenge your marksmanship under stress.”

The stages included the normal complement of hard cover, no-shoots, activated targets and steel poppers. This year saw a return of the famed “shaker table” incorporated into Stage 4 “Florida Man,” which, although shaky and unsteady, counted as the shooting area and added a nice challenge while you tried to engage a swinging target and keep your distance from the alligator lurking about the stage (don’t worry, it was a prop).

A new mechanical prop added in this year was a raised platform shooting area on Stage 6, “WACrobatics,” that had the appearance of a see-saw bridge; the shooter was able to select which side (left or right) was touching the ground prior to starting the stage, so that whichever direction they decided to approach from, it would be oriented properly so they could run up the ramp to the apex, thus tipping it over in a see-saw fashion to allow them to exit the ramp on the opposite side. Alternatively, one could simply bypass the ramp by running around front of it from either direction—but what’s the fun in that?

Stage 7, “Close Surprise,” incorporated a hard lean to the left at the end of the stage on a max-trap activated by a steel popper from a wall port a few feet away on the right; if you weren’t quick, only the head of a USPSA paper target was available at rest.

Stage 10, “Happy Feet,” was appropriately named, given multiple target arrays on the left and right side of the centerline wall stage, requiring the shooter to go downrange making multiple stops to engage targets on a given side, round the centerline wall and come back uprange making multiple stops to engage targets on that side. While not overly complicated in terms of a stage design and target arrays, it did require a considerable amount of movement to get into the appropriate position in the available shooting areas quickly to make your shots.

 

The match stages offered a nice mix of both technical challenges and speed and accuracy notes, complemented with fun themes and props to round them out.

“I’ve competed at the WAC Florida State Championships several years in a row and in addition to being a well-organized and staffed match, it never fails to impress with stages that challenge shooters in a fun and exciting way. It’s so popular and always full that I think they should add another day of shooters,” Joey Sauerland, who shoots for MasterPiece Arms said.

The 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship saw more than 280 competitors come through over the weekend, and as the match concluded, everyone gathered at the clubhouse to await final scores. Often overlooked and underappreciated, one of the most important jobs at any major match is the stats position. If you don’t have a good stats team managing the match and keeping everything synced and properly tallied up, you’d be hard-pressed to call what you are doing a shooting competition? After all, at the end of the day, everyone wants to know how they stacked up against the competition. This wasn’t a challenge for John “JB” Creech, who commented, “When you have three top stats guys who have all run stats for Nationals before at your local club, stats aren’t something your match director has to worry about.” As someone who has become intimately familiar with Practiscore over the last year, and who has learned a great deal from Creech, I can certainly appreciate and respect his sentiment.

Rick Hinkle with PCC
Pistol-caliber carbine shooter Rick Hinkle competing at the 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship. Hinkle finished in fifth place with 899.2151 match points.

 

Now for what everyone wants to know about the 2024 Florida State USPSA Championship, the top honor goes to JJ Racaza as the match High Overall winner, as well as first place in Carry Optics and first in the Florida Resident category. Joey Sauerland took home a first place victory in Limited division, Hwansik Kim came out on top with a first place finish in Limited Optics and Sal Luna did the same in Production. Although not as popular these days, you still can’t count out the Single Stack division, with Julio Salado finishing strong in first place. Limited 10 competitor Casey Rounds took the division win. Defending his title from last year’s race to the top in Open division, Kyle Stephens gets another year to retain the status as the Florida State USPSA Open Champion.

A hard-earned first place finish in Pistol-Caliber Carbine division, along with the Military category, went to Jeremy Lightner, who said, “As a Floridian, winning my home state has been a goal since I started competing in PCC. Everything finally came together, and I shot a clean match without letting the wheels fall off on any stage. As usual, the match was run seamlessly, and everyone had a great time.” Congratulations, Jeremy.

For the second year in a row, junior shooter Ashlyn Champagne showcased her prowess with a pistol-caliber carbine and came out as High Lady and first Junior. Robert Weinberg, Jim Civitello and Bob Mills took the honors for Senior, Super Senior and Distinguished Senior categories, respectively. All three were shooting in Open division; Weinburg also came away with top shot in the Foreign category. Additionally, James Ramos battled it out to take home the title for High Law Enforcement category. Congratulations to all the top top finishers across the divisions and categories.

While speaking with Ashlynn Champagne after the match, she said, “The Florida State Championship at the WAC is such a great match. Dan Bernard and Mark Walker and their team always put on phenomenal shooting competitions. For the last two years, this match has presented me with a challenge between the technical stages and wide variety of competition. As for winning High Junior and High Lady, I feel like it’s a great accomplishment and moreover a great experience to represent in the USPSA community.”

Champagne does represent the USPSA community well and in addition to consistently performing well in the Pistol-Caliber Carbine division, she is actively involved in planning and running matches with Range Project Group International out of the North Florida USPSA Section. It is refreshing to observe the younger generation of competitors such as Champagne taking such an active role in shaping the future of the sport.

While this match was once again a winner for the Wyoming Antelope Club and marks another well-orchestrated major for Bernard and Walker’s resume, the proverbial torch will be passed off to Gorka Ibanez and Manny Bragg of the Volusia County Gun Club in New Smyrna, Florida, to host the Florida State USPSA Championship for the next few years. In discussions with the South, Central and North Florida Section Coordinators, Bernard noted that through mutual consensus the decision was made to share the custodianship of the Florida State Match and allow other clubs the opportunity to host and run the match. Due to the strong relationships and collaboration across these Florida sections, there is no doubt that many of the same faces will be involved regardless of the venue going forward, as this is truly a match that many across the state care about. No strangers to running major matches over the years themselves, Ibanez and Bragg have a remarkable range facility and all the necessary capabilities to put on a fantastic Florida State USPSA Championship match in 2025 that will take the WAC to task in a fun, spirited sense.

In the meantime, if you are ever in the Tampa Bay area, be sure to make time to head over to the Wyoming Antelope Club and get in on one of the weekly Tuesday or Friday night USPSA matches, where you’ll be welcomed and treated like family. If Steel Challenge is your jam, then get in touch with Jeff Jones and sign up for one of his is regularly scheduled matches at the WAC. Also, the highly anticipated 12th Annual Gary “DOC” Welt Memorial Match, another Bernard and Walker signature collaboration, is currently scheduled for April 19-21, 2024. This match has garnered quite the reputation over the last decade and is sure to be a good time as in years past. You won’t want to miss it.

Article from the March/April 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. All photos by Jordan Binion.

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