In the end it cost National Assistant Pistol Coach Russ Doucette a ponytail, but the expression and emotion he displayed on the medal stand this past Sunday says it was all worth it.
Similar emotion can be extracted from organizers and competitors following year two of the dual-venue National Progressive-Position (PPP) National Championships that seems to be working. This year’s championship brought a record 132 competitors to one of two regional venues, USA Shooting’s International Shooting Center in Colorado Springs or the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Last year’s 116 competitors was the first time the PPP National Championship exceeded more than 100 participants. Three National Junior members competed in the event as well this year.
Doucette’s Massachusetts Junior Pistol Team of Isabel Macaulay (Concord), Vladlen Vronsky (Brighton) and Kevin Bennett (Belmont) scored a pistol team national title in the International Standing event, forcing Doucette to make good on a bet he made 15 years ago when he decided to start growing a pony tail and said he wouldn’t cut it off until his team had a National Championship. Macaulay cut the ponytail off Sunday for all to see as the team stood atop the podium in Colorado Springs. It was an emotional moment for Doucette.
“Many years ago I grew a tail because of an event which is a story for another time,” Doucette said. “When I was coaching the kids they would ask me about my tail and l I told them it was there until a team from Massachusetts wins a gold medal at a National event and when that happens they will have the right to cut it off. That story got passed on year-to-year from shooter to shooter. I never anticipated that they would really cut my tail off if they won the gold medal but guess what, I was wrong. When these kids realized that they probably had won gold they started searching for a knife and I started to worry. A tear came to my eye because of my loss, or, was it because of their win? I’m still trying to figure that out. I was overwhelmed with pride, happiness, joy and I guess a little sadness. And so it goes (no pun intended) the tale of the tail.”
It’s that type of spirit that makes the PPP National Championships so critical to the long-term growth of international pistol shooting in the United States. Youth involvement in the pistol discipline is a primary goal of USA Shooting to help create greater participation within the sport and to ultimately increase the quality and depth of our future Olympic pistol athletes.
Macaulay earned her way on to the newly-formed USA Shooting Junior Olympic Squad for her performance and second-place overall finish joining new National Champion Kylie Turner (Pocahantas, Arkansas). This year’s bronze medalist is Colorado Springs native Carson Saabye who also finished first in the Sub-Junior International Standing event and helped guide her team to a second-place overall finish in the International Standing event.
The men’s competition was a close affair with seven competitors within six points of one another. Charlie Englund (Lynchburg, Virginia) earned a one-point victory to be crowned National Champion and earn his Junior Olympic Squad status while three others tied for second-place only to be decided by counting back center-10s. Miles McDonald (Tifton, Georgia), with 19 center 10s, earned the silver medal and is a new member of the Junior Olympic Squad followed by Vronsky in third following 14 center 10s. Current Junior World Championships team member Daniel Cheon (Ceritos, California) finished fourth with 13 center 10s.
The Leverett family out of Bainbridge, Georgia, enjoyed a good match with Abbie capturing the title in the Basic Supported event. Jack Leverett III bested brother Henry in the Standing Supported discipline. The three siblings teamed together to finish second in the Basic Supported Team event.
Intended to introduce young athletes to competitive pistol target shooting, the Progressive-Position Pistol Program provides competitive experience and creates an opportunity for youth to begin at an earlier age. As there is no minimum age limit, how early a youth begins depends on their ability to hold and shoot an air pistol as determined by an experienced pistol coach. The two-site system was put in place in hopes of helping drive registration numbers and make event travel easier and more attainable for kids and families participating.
“This is the first National level match experience for many shooters and we do our best to make it a good one,” said Eric Pueppke, Assistant National Team Coach for Pistol and Match Director for the Fort Benning event. “Several of our current National Team members have told me that there was a point in time that something or someone inspired them, and at that moment they realized that they could take their shooting career all the way. What better place than PPP Nationals to experience that inspirational moment. Running a world class match at a grassroots level was my goal this year, and I think we did just that. There’s something inspiring about winning a medal and the team jacket, and having an Olympic shooter, an Assistant National Coach, as well as the Commander of the AMU award you that medal or coat.”
“What we saw this year is that each site in of itself served as a legitimate competitive opportunity. There was plenty of depth in the competition level that made for a great environment at each site,” said Steve Faught, Assistant National Team Coach for Pistol and Match Director for the Colorado Springs event. “You experience the families involved, opportunities provided and the action on the firing line and you realize you’ve got the makings of a grassroots event for pistol that can help nurture our program.”
Orion Scoring Systems provided all match results which are posted here for your convenience.
For Western Regional photos taken at USA Shooting headquarters, click here.
For Eastern Regional photos taken at the USAMU, click here.
Image courtesy USA Shooting