Eight more athletes, including three Olympians and four Juniors, came to the U.S. Army Marksmanship’s Home of Champions in Fort Benning, Georgia and earned their spots in smallbore (.22 caliber) competition for the Pan American Games or two future World Cups on the final day of USA Shooting’s Rifle/Pistol Spring Selection Match. Airgun competition concluded Thursday with 13 athletes earning team status, four of whom also came back and earned team status in their smallbore events.
This match selected the competitors eligible to compete at the upcoming International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cups in Beijing, China and Munich, Germany; as well as for the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru later this summer. Top-two finishers earned Pan American Game Team selection, while top-3 earned World Cup Team spots.
Olympian Nick Mowrer’s mastery of two different disciplines was again on display. A top finisher in Air Pistol, he came back two days later and finished third in Three-Position Rifle. Mowrer (Butte, Montana) is already the lone shooter ever to earn World Cup medals in two different shooting disciplines and now he’ll spend his summer shooting both guns for Team USA.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Ginny Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) earned World Cup Team status in Air Rifle Thursday and then came back to finish second in Women’s Three-Position Rifle to earn a trip to the Pan Am Games. Pistol shooter Alexis Lagan (Boulder City, Nevada) also earned World Cup status Thursday in Air Pistol and then came back in Sport Pistol Saturday to make sure she was among the lucky few to represent the United States at this summer’s Pan Am Games as well.
After winning 10m Air Rifle Thursday, Tim Sherry (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit/Highlands Ranch, Colorado) finished second in 50m Three-Position Rifle as the fourth athlete earning Team status in two events.
While those athletes enjoyed good performances throughout the week, another top smallbore performer included three-time Olympian Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado). His world-class Qualification score of 1183 Saturday helped him easily walk away with top billing and a 19-point margin of victory in Rapid Fired Pistol. The Leverett siblings, Henry and Jack, will be joining him as top-rising juniors on the World Cup circuit, while Henry (Bainbridge, Georgia) will compete alongside him in Lima after finishing second.
Two-time Olympian Michael McPhail (U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit/Darlington, Wisconsin) and his USAMU teammate Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) both excelled as well in winning the Three-Position Rifle contests battling through high winds Saturday. McPhail was the only competitor to shoot in the 1170s (1173/1172) on both days of Qualification while Beard was the only competitor to shoot in the 1160s (1166/1168). 2012 Pistol Olympian Sandra Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama) earned Pan Am and World Cup Team status as well in Sport Pistol in a tight battle with Lagan.
Katie Zaun (Buffalo, New York) and Katelyn Abeln (Douglasville, Georgia) join the Leveretts as well as Hunter Battig (Colorado Springs, Colorado) as the rise of junior talent continues to infiltrate the top ranks of America’s Shooting Team. Zaun finished third behind Beard and Thrasher in Three-Position Rifle, and as a 15-year-old, becomes one of the youngest World Cup members of all time in rifle. Abeln will team with the Leveretts and Battig on the World Cup pistol team after finishing third in Sport Pistol. Last year, she finished runner-up at the Junior World Championships in this event.
Spots at the ISSF World Cups and Pan American Games are of particular importance as these are some of the remaining opportunities to earn quotas for the Olympic Games. An Olympic quota is essentially a country’s ticket to participate in a specific event in the 2020 Olympic Games. Earning an Olympic quota in competition ensures the country a spot in that particular event, not necessarily the athlete. Rifle and Pistol athletes will then earn slots on the U.S. Olympic Team via a trials system which can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2FnccFI.
For Paralympic athletes, this match is part of the selection process for the World Shooting Para Sport (WSPS) World Cup in Osijek, Croatia and the Parapan American Games, also in Lima this summer. This year’s Parapan American Games will be the first time in which shooting will be contested. Earning top podium spots in the rifle events were Kevin Nguyen(USAMU/Westminster, California), Stetson Bardfield (Colorado Springs, Colorado), John Joss(USAMU/Corsicana, Texas). In Pistol, 2016 Paralympians Marco De La Rosa (San Antonio, Texas) and Mike Tagliapietra (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) earned wins in their respective events.
Event photos courtesy of Jennifer Tucker-Mogensen: