Of the 15 shooting disciplines, there’s perhaps none more well-balanced than the field of talent that continually competes nationally in men’s and women’s skeet. That played itself out over a four-day competition for national supremacy that ended Sunday in a driving late-afternoon thunderstorm.
Two first-time champions were crowned with Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania) winning in convincing fashion while World Team member Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas) won by virtue of a shoot-off against Hayden Stewart (USAMU/Columbia, Tennessee).
Frustrated and lacking confidence following a Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 performance that left her off the World Team, Craft reevaluated her position and chose to spend her summer in Colorado Springs working on her game and setting one goal, winning a national title. Mission accomplished after shooting a qualifying-best score of 244 out of 250 targets. But, this championship was earned by two sterling performances in each of the two event finals. She finished second in the Friday final and won today’s final after a shoot-off against Haley Dunn (Eddyville, Pennsylvania) but also not before her and Dunn beat Kim Rhode in a shoot-off to earn the right to shoot in the gold-medal match. Those combined finishes earned her an extra nine bonus points to her qualifying score and provided the degree of separation she’d need over five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode (El Monte, California) and Dunn. Rhode would finish second overall after a shoot-off against Dunn.
“I really needed this and I trained here for a reason and today was the reward for all the hard work I have put in,” Craft said. “My USA Shooting teammates are on fire right now and to have the scores we had this match was amazing. To be able to compete on their level is a real confidence booster and I’m really just honored to be able to shoot and compete with them.”
Perry’s great shooting in 2014 continued at the USA Shooting National Championships and now he has the additional confidence boost he was looking for heading into the upcoming World Championships in September. He earned his first World Cup medal (bronze) in May at the Tucson World Cup and again earned a bronze at the Spanish Grand Prix. The fight he faced this week out at the International Shooting Park might have been just as tough with a plethora of world-class scores being put up. Perry finished third overall in points at 245 with Stewart and Phillip Jungman (Caldwell, Texas) outshooting him at 247 and 246 targets. A win Friday in the finals against Mark Weeks (USAMU/Clinton Township, Michigan) combined with a fourth-place finish today would make up the difference he’d need to force a shoot-out with Stewart who finished fourth and third in each of the finals. Stewart and Jungman both moved up to National Team status with their results.
“This was the toughest competition I’ve ever fought in in the States,” Perry said after the event concluded. “There were just unbelievable world-class scores from everybody. It’s really impressive the depth we have in this event with so many people capable of shooting well.”
The 2014 Women’s Junior National Champion is World Team member Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas) who beat fellow World Team member Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida) by five total points. Sunday’s junior final fell victim to the storm that pelted the range with heavy rain and lightning. The bronze medalist was Hannah Houston (Columbia, Tennessee), another USA Shooting team representative at the upcoming World Championships.
By virtue of two gold-medal finals, World Champs team member Jungman earned the crown of 2014 Men’s Junior National Champion. He defeated Will Thomas (West Des Moines, Iowa) by nine points with Zach McBee (Gilbert, Arizona) taking third place in the junior division. Thomas moved from USA Shooting’s Junior Olympic Squad to National Junior Team with his second-place finish.
USA Shooting would like to thank all competitors, their families and the dedicated volunteers that make the USA Shooting National Championships a successful showcase for our sport.
Image courtesy USA Shooting