Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan–National Junior Olympic Rifle Championships (NJORC) held at Hillsdale College May 12-16, 2021, saw intense competition, thrilling finals, and uncovered a promising future of international rifle in the United States.
Both men’s and women’s smallbore rifle finals featured well-known faces on the top of the podium, with Tokyo-bound Olympians and University of Kentucky athletes William Shaner (Colorado Springs, Colorado) and Mary Tucker (Sarasota, Florida) taking it all with big leads over the rest of their competition. Men’s air rifle and women’s air rifle finals finished with brand new faces on the medal stand, Derek Keiser (Vienna, West Virginia) and Molly McGhin (Griffin, Georgia). Keiser barely edged out Shaner for the gold in the men’s air rifle event, and on the women’s side, McGhin took home the gold over several NCAA athletes and previous Rifle Junior Olympic winners. Keiser, McGhin, and Rylan Kissell (Lake George, Colorado) are now all named to the USA Shooting Futures Team and will remain on the team until at least May 17, 2022.
In addition to young rifle superstars, past Olympians and celebrities of the sport were in attendance. Jack Writer, 1972 Olympic Champion in smallbore rifle, presented Keiser with his USA Shooting team jacket in a special ceremony. Marsha Beasley, current Ole Miss Rifle Coach, dreamed up and started the very first National Junior Olympic Rifle Championships and joined the competition this year with her collegiate athletes.
In men’s smallbore rifle, Olympian Shaner grabbed the gold with an impressive 10.9 shot to end all three, kneeling, prone, and standing, series. Shaner shot a 1171 qualifying score, only one point over his closest competitor, Kissell and two points over Matt Sanchez (Tampa, Florida) who finished second and third in the finals respectively. The men’s smallbore finals included the only male J2 athlete, Braden Peiser (San Angelo, Texas) who finished in 6th place overall as well as four NCAA Rifle athletes including Kissell (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Shaner (University of Kentucky), Keiser (The Ohio State University), and Sanchez (West Virginia University).
Tucker, who has a shooting resume taller than she is, was able to effortlessly grab the gold in women’s three-position with an impressive score of 1191 in qualification, over 15 points higher than 2019 National Junior Olympic Champion, Katie Zaun (Buffalo, North Dakota). Tucker, the Tokyo-bound Olympian, World Cup god medalist, two-time NCAA champion at University of Kentucky, and World Ranking #2, and Zaun battled it out through the first few series only tenths of a point within each other before Tucker pulled away with a huge lead and cruised into first place. Zaun finished second while West Virginia Rifle Team member, McGhin finished third. Women’s smallbore rifle also featured two current NCAA Rifle athletes Morgan Kreb (Colorado Springs, Colorado) at United States Air Force Academy and Stephanie Allan (Old Greenwich, Connecticut) at Texas Christian University as well as West Virginia University signee, Natalie Perrin (Coopersville, Michigan).
In men’s air rifle, Keiser barely edged out Shaner in a thrilling final which resulted in changeups on the leaderboard after each elimination round. Kissell, while leading through the first series, switched back and forth between Shaner and Keiser for the lead. All three men ended up with a medal, but it came down to a tie for the bronze between Shaner and Kissell. Shaner edged out Kissell and had to face Keiser for the chance at the gold. Only .2 points separated Keiser and Shaner heading into the final elimination shots, until Shaner put up a huge 10.9. But his perfect shot was no match because in the final elimination shot, it was Keiser who ended up with the gold by only .1 of a point.
McGhin’s win was her first National Junior Olympic gold medal. She went up against many familiar faces and other NCAA athletes and past medalists including Katrina Demerle (Hamilton, Ohio), Zaun, Alison Henry (Granbury, Texas) (Murray State), Tucker, Perrin, Rachael Charles (Urbandale, Iowa), and Claire O’Neel (Frederick, Maryland) (Ole Miss), who all finished in that order. Demerle, Zaun and Perrin are all members of the El Salvador Junior Airgun Grand Prix team who took home a combined 5 medals in El Salvador back in March 2021. Zaun, an 11th grader, started the finals strong with the highest first shot of a 10.7, but Demerle scored a 10.8 moving Zaun onto the bubble for elimination for the bronze medal. McGhin led with a 1.7-point advantage over Demerle in the final with only two elimination shots to go. Demerle was able to pick up .7 points with only one shot to go, but ultimately McGhin secured the gold.
National Junior Olympic Rifle Championships took place at Hillsdale College in the Bierman Athletic Center using mobile range targets from The Civilian Marksmanship Program.
For more results, please visit our website (https://www.usashooting.org/7-events/njosc) and for photos from the event available to download, please visit our Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/usashooting/).
About USA Shooting
USA Shooting, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, was chartered by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee as the National Governing Body for the sport of shooting in April 1995. The organization implements and manages development programs and sanctions events at the local, state, regional, and national levels.
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, USA Shooting has a full-time staff dedicated to furthering the sport and supporting athletes and members of the organization. The organization has a USA Shooting News magazine publication, as well as public and member specific web sites.