Francis Scott Key penned the Star Spangled Banner some 200 years ago. The USA Shooting Team honored that indelible legacy by making sure it was played with great frequency Monday. Three times, in fact, as the U.S. Shotgun Team produced two World Champions a Junior Team title and an Open Team Bronze medal in a show of strength that topped Sunday’s sterling performance in Double Trap.
The eyes of Texas, her native state, America and the world, are upon Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas) this evening as the 20-year-old became World Champion in Women’s Skeet this afternoon during a hard-fought day in Granada, Spain, at the 2014 World Shooting Championships. Eyes that have usually been reserved for five-time Olympic medalist and teammate Kim Rhode (El Monte, California). But today, Drozd is the story.
Drozd beat Great Britain’s 42-year old Elena Allen to claim the title and also an Olympic quota spot for the USA Shooting Team in this event. Danka Bartekova of Slovakia pocketed the Bronze. Ranked third in the world, Drozd claimed her first-ever international gold medal by defeating Allen 14 hits to 13 and added to a season that has shown her true potential.
“It feels great,” responded the newly crowned champion. “My three rounds of qualification went smooth. And I started off semifinal with a 16, a perfect score, and the 14 in the medal match worked out in my favor. I definitely felt the pressure of the final and was a bit shaky, but I took some deep breaths and I focused on my goals. Luckily, I made it through.”
Drozd became the second-straight World Champion and Olympic quota collector for the USA Shooting Team joining Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pennsylvania), who earned his third overall World title Sunday in Men’s Double Trap. Drozd becomes just the third World Champion in the event for the U.S. joining Rhode (2010) and Terry Carlisle (1985) in the 52-year history of the event.
Rhode lost out on a chance to shoot for a medal when she was eliminated during a five-person shoot-off for the last two finalist positions. An uncharacteristic final round 23 put her in the shoot-off position.
Haley Dunn (Eddyville, Iowa) never could get a run going Monday and finished five targets off the pace she would need to try and earn a finals spot.
The three teammates would earn enough points to collect a team bronze medal.
Florida’s Vizzi Shines in Spain
Last season, Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Florida) was the relative new kid on the skeet scene but managed to earn World Clay Target Championship silver medal in Lima, Peru, to announce her arrival. Today, she showed it didn’t take her long for her to grow-up while showcasing America’s growing depth in the discipline. She is now a World Champion and her career is just getting started.
Vizzi was superb through 75-shots in qualifying, besting her nearest competitor by three targets, an almost unheard of advantage in skeet. She’d have to prove herself all over again to earn a medal. She wasn’t nearly as dominant during the semifinals and finals as she had been, but she didn’t have to be because neither was her opponents. She connected on 13/16 targets in the semifinal to advance to the final where she’d again connect on 13 targets to her opponents 12.
“I’m very satisfied,” Vizzi said. “It was a hard day and I’m happiest that I stayed consistent and focused all day. My main goal was to compete better than I did last year and the result was amazing.”
Almost joining her in the medal hunt was Sydney Carson (North Liberty, Indiana) who was rewarded a semifinal appearance after a clutch third-round 24. She had two separate chances to move into the bronze-medal match during a shoot-off when the opponent shooting before her missed. Carson couldn’t capitalize and would finally miss a sixth target and would not advance finishing fifth.
Hannah Houston (Columbia, Tennessee) battled sickness throughout the day but still hung tough and only missed a semifinal spot by two targets with an eighth-place finish.
Vizzi, Carson and Houston did manage to earn a Junior World Team title in record-breaking fashion with a world-best score of 204, 11 targets ahead of second-place Czech Republic. U.S. Junior women have now earned five of the seven team titles ever awarded in the event.
In conclusion of USA Shooting’s Shotgun performance Monday, your phrase to remember is Skeet Nation Domination. And with a strong Men’s Skeet squad still yet to compete, there might still be more to brag about before the World Championship is complete.
Rifle Rewards . . .
The USA Shooting Team picked up the first individual rifle medals of the World Championship as well Tuesday. First it was U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) rifle shooter Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wisconsin) earning the first individual World Championships medal of his career, albeit in an event discipline he rarely shoots, 300-meter Prone Rifle.
McPhail had already joined Joe Hein (Mason, Michigan) and Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama) in winning the team event on Sunday based on elimination scores. Uptagrafft finished with the same score (598) as McPhail and one other competitor but fell to fourth based on the number of center 10s each athlete shot. Uptagrafft was three behind McPhail in that count and five behind silver medalist Johan Gustafasson of Sweden. Frenchman Valerian Sauveplane took the gold.
In another non-Olympic event, Katie Bridges (Kingsland, Texas) came through with a bronze medal as well in the Junior Women’s 50m Prone match highlighting a strong performance with two of the three American women besting their previous high marks. Lorelie Stanfield (Fairbanks, Alaska) finished .9 behind Bridges in fourth while also shooting the best score she’d ever shot. Bridges, Stanfield and the 45th-place finish from Lauren Phillips (Seabeck, Washington) earned the team fourth place overall.
In the Women’s Prone event, Reya Kempley (Carson City, Nevada) finished ninth with a score of 623.5. Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) finished 21st with a 620.3. There are no finals in non-Olympic events.
On Tap for Tuesday . . .
Marching on into the ninth day, the ranges of Juan Carlos I Range outside Granada, Spain, will be filled with athletes competing in Junior Men’s Prone Rifle where U.S. team members Remington Lyman (Meriden, Connecticut), Garrett Spurgeon (Canton, Missouri) and Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) will be firing their smallbore rifles on the 50-meter range. Also in rifle, will be elimination and the team event in Men’s 300m Standard Rifle and Women’s 300m Prone. The Women’s Prone team includes Army Marksmanship Unit’s Erin McNeil (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Reya Kempley (Carson City, Nevada) and Michelle Bohren (Taylor, Michigan).
In pistol, the non-Olympic event of Men’s and Junior Men’s Standard will also be in action. The open category will include some familiar faces including Olympians Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) and Emil Milev (Temple Terrace, Florida). Joining them on the line will be Army Marksmanship Unit shooter Greg Markowski (Columbus, Georgia).
Men’s Skeet has official training Tuesday followed by three-straight days of competition to conclude the 2014 World Shooting Championships.
Images courtesy USA Shooting