The 19th Annual USA Shooting National Championships for Shotgun are set to begin Thursday, June 27 at the home of USA Shooting in Colorado Springs and the International Shooting Park located at the Fort Carson Army Base. Four of the six 2012 Olympic nominees will compete along with over 190 other athletes looking to establish their shooting prowess heading into the next Olympic quadrennium.
Given the nearly 15-mile distance that separates the International Shooting Park from the devastating Waldo Canyon fire that’s wreaked havoc on west Colorado Springs since Saturday, USA Shooting officials have decided to move ahead with the Championships with the fires current northwest path.
The 2012 Olympians competing include 2008 Olympic gold medalists and U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) teammates Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Ga.) and Glenn Eller (Katy, Texas). Hancock will be joined by Olympic teammate and friend Frank Thompson (Alliance, Neb.) in the Men’s Skeet competition. Likewise, Eller will be joined by 2010 World Champion and USAMU teammate Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pa.) as they continue their pre-Olympic prep in Men’s Double Trap.
Hancock was dominant at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in May winning by 11 total targets while Thompson fought back from a three-target deficit in the final to defeat both Jon Michael McGrath(Tulsa, Okla.) and Mark Weeks (USAMU/Clinton Township, Mich.) for the final Olympic spot. Thompson shot a perfect 25/25 in the skeet final as well as the sudden-death 25-target shoot-out that would follow among the three. Weeks and McGrath will be back to seek some revenge on the field as will two of the other Olympic Trials finalists BJ Blanchard (Vidor, Texas) and Dustin Perry(Lovelady, Texas).
Staying home to concentrate on her pre-Olympic training will be Women’s Skeet World Champion and four-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.). However, the field of competitors will be anything but lacking and will provide opportunity for those participating to showcase the depth behind one of the world’s best shotgun competitors. The top-three finishers from the Spring Selection match in Tucson including Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pa.), Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, La.) and Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas) are expected to compete. Other shooters with plenty of international experience expected to contend include Alexander Chiang (Redwood City, Calif.),Amber English (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Jaiden Grinnell (Port Angeles, Wash.).
Double Trap Preview
While Eller and Richmond are at the head of the class in the Men’s Double Trap field, the competition will also feature 2008 Olympian and fourth-place finisher Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, Calif.), 2010 Junior World Champion Billy Crawford (Johnstown, Ohio), Derek Haldeman (USAMU/Sunbury, Ohio), Christian Wilkoski (Centerburg, Ohio) and Kelcey DePatis (Donovan, Ill.). All five of them were among the finalists competing against Eller for the second Olympic spot given Richmond’s early Olympic nomination based on his previous World Cup and World Championship performances. Holguin is the defending National Champion in the event.
In Women’s Trap, Corey Cogdell (Eagle River, Alaska) has qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team as the lone U.S. competitor in the event, but, like Rhode, will train on her own and not compete at the U.S. Championships. Her absence leaves the door open for a talented group of young female trap shooters including Kayle Browning (Wooster, Ark.), Kelsey Zauhar (Lakeville, Minn.), Miranda Wilder (Diana, Texas) and Rachael Heiden (Clinton, Mich.), all of whom made it into the finals of the Olympic Trials. Browning is the defending National Champion and captured her first World Cup medal earlier this year while Heiden won the 2010 U.S. title. Zauhar and Wilder finished tied for third at Trials.
In Men’s Trap, Jake Turner (Richland, Wash.) has been on quite a roll since last year’s eighth-place finish at Nationals having won both fall and spring selection matches. One of his biggest challengers,Ryan Hadden (USAMU/Pendleton, Ore.), is currently deployed overseas and won’t compete after winning the Tucson World Cup in March. Spring selection finalists participating will include Collin Wietfeldt (Hemlock, Mich.), Brian Burrows (Fallbrook, Calif.), three-time Olympian Lance Bade(Vancouver, Wash.), John Mullins (Port Orchard, Wash.) and Dustin Anderson (Woodstock, Ga.). Also competing is defending National Champion Matt Gossett (Springville, Ala.).
The top-three shooters in each event get named to the USA Shooting’s National Team while the top-two junior shooters in each event will earn a spot on the USA Shooting National Junior Team.
Participants will be greeted by an expanded range facility courtesy of the Shikar Safari Club International Foundation (SSCIF), which provided a grant to enhance the International Shooting Park. On June 1, representatives of the Foundation joined with the USA Shooting National Team Members for Shotgun to officially fire the ceremonial first shots from the new international trap bunker they helped construct.
Groundbreaking on the international-style bunker began in June 2011 and upon its completion in February now increases the facilities capacity, provides better training opportunities and allows USA Shooting to host larger national and international competitions.
The addition brings the number of Trap and Skeet fields on-site to five, making the International Shooting Park one of the largest international complexes in the country. Unlike the existing four fields that are overlaid, the new fields are separate, which will allow for competition of one event fully utilizing five fields and leaving a separate field for training of athletes in another discipline. The new fields provide a 20 percent increase in participation to accommodate the growth that the shotgun discipline is currently experiencing.
The new international bunker and all skeet fields operate with the Promatic target systems, which were also donated to USA Shooting. The new bunker features a completely flush top which provides a similar look to the target presentation that athletes see in international competition. The bunker has quickly become a favorite for resident athletes preparing to shoot for the Olympic Trials and international competitions. Another feature unique to the international trap bunker, is a change in design providing for a ramp to accommodate a forklift to place pallets of targets directly into the bunker for easy storage.
National Championship Schedule:
Thursday, June 28 Men’s & Women’s Skeet (100 targets)
Friday, June 29 Men’s & Women’s Skeet (100 targets)
Saturday, June 30 Men’s & Women’s Skeet (50 targets + 25 Target Final)
Sunday, July 1 Double Trap Official Training
Monday, July 2 Double Trap (150 targets)
Tuesday, July 3 Double Trap (150 targets + 50 Target Final)
Wednesday, July 4 Men’s & Women’s Trap Official Training
Thursday, July 5 Men’s & Women’s Trap (75 Targets)
Friday, July 6 Men’s & Women’s Trap (50 Targets)
Saturday, July 7 Men’s & Women’s Trap (75 Targets)
Image courtesy Scott Brownell and Cabelas