It was a tight match for the 15 participants in both precision and sporter category participants competing in The American Legion's 23rd Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship on Aug. 9 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. By the time Friday wrapped up, the top eight competitors had earned a spot in today's final round.
"Coming out to Colorado for the Legion's air rifle tournament to shoot at the Olympic Training, you can't beat that. It's just incredible," said Dan Hackstein, a Legionnaire and coach. "It's a great experience for us as coaches, and it's a great opportunity for the kids because the Legion volunteers are very gracious and supportive."
Each of the 30 competitors fired two rounds of 20 shots in the prone, standing and kneeling position with a .177 caliber air rifle, aiming for a chance to be one of 16 advancing on to Saturday's championship finals. Holding the No. 1 spot in the precision category is three-time Legion air rifle tournament participant Rachel Martin from Peralta, N.M.
"A lot of the people I know in the shooting world I have met here (at the Legion's tournament)," Martin said. "The program is very well run, and it's so much fun."
In less than two weeks, Martin and two of her precision category competitors standing alongside during the Legion's tournament – Lauren Phillips from Vashon, Wash., and Jaycee Carter from Sutter, Calif.– will be on the same shooting sports team at the University of Nebraska. The three girls, who have nearly 20 years of shooting experience combined, met previously at other air rifle tournaments.
"I'm so excited to have a close-knit team at the University of Nebraska and have a sisterhood already built since the three of us are going in already knowing each other," Phillips said. She finished 10th in the tournament.
As for Carter, the opportunity to be on the university's air rifle team allows her to continue shocking people when she tells them she shoots air rifles.
"When I tell strangers the sport I'm in, they always say, ‘You don't cheerlead?' No. I shoot guns competitively. And, I'm also on the high school rodeo team," Carter said. She finished 11th in the tournament.
Jeffery Garcia from Albuquerque, N.M., who earned the No. 2 spot in the sporter category, is familiar with American Legion youth programs. Garcia was sponsored by Post 49 in Albuquerque to attend Boys State this past May.
"With Boys State, it was really nice to be around other young men who want to make a difference and who are preparing themselves to become leaders in our world," Garcia said.
The top eight precision category individuals are:
Rachel Martin, Peralta, N.M.
Jack Anderson, Franklin, Pa.
Rachael Schoenrock, Beatrice, Neb.
Ariana Grabowski, Wind Ridge, Pa.
Casey Lutz, Meridian, Idaho
Sarah Osborn, Hampton, Va.
Darren Kasl, El Paso, Texas
Zack Strohl, Tamaqua, Pa.
The top eight sporter category individuals are:
Alan Rodriguez, Phoenix
Jeffery Garcia, Albuquerque, N.M.
Brantley Santrock, Rocky Mount, Va.
Michael Barton, Rocky Mount, Va.
Kevin Hamilton, Zion, Ill.
Cody Ashby, Rocky Mount, Va.
Charles Collins, Mayodan, N.C.
Kaitlyn Gauthier, Picayune, Miss.
See results for each of the 30 competitors here .