Neither the precision nor sporter champs of The American Legion’s 25th annual Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship expected to leave the tournament with a title. But after three days of competition at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., both proved they were the class of the field.
Rhiann Travis of Weatherford, Texas, rolled up 2,487.9 points to capture the precision title by a margin of 11.7 points over her next-closest competitor. And Adam McClintock of Tucson, Ariz., was equally dominant, securing first place in the sporter division by 15.9 points with a score of 2,331 during the finals on July 25. Both earned $5,000 scholarships for their efforts.
Travis, who will be a senior at Weatherford Christian School and hopes to eventually train at the USOC Training Center and become an Olympic medalist, came into the tournament with the highest qualifying score, but, “I don’t think I came into it with very many expectations,” she said. “I just came in hoping to perform well and to have fun and shoot the way I can. This is just a really big encouragement, an affirmation that yes, I am capable of being on top. I like the feeling of being on top.”
Travis, who was sponsored by Parker County Post 163 in Weatherford, said participating in competitive shooting has led to a “monumental change” for her. “Before I started shooting I was kind of that awkward, unsure, never really knew where I fit in,” she said. “I found my niche (in shooting). There were people here just like me: quirky, weird, shy. I really kind of came out of my shell. I was outgoing. I was able to be me.”
Travis fended off a strong challenge in the final round, as three other participants – Mitchell Van Patten, Emily Stith and Casey Lutz – totaled 102.2 points or higher over their final 10 shots. But Travis herself delivered a score of 102.9 to fend off the competition. Van Patten, the 2011 sporter champion, ended up second.
During the competition, Travis tied an overall and American Legion record, and set a 4-H record, with a 598-50x, and tied the overall and Legion mark – and set another 4-H standard – with a 200-19x kneeling performance.
Earlier in the competition, Casey Lutz set an overall, American Legion and Junior Shooting Club record by a 200-17x performance delivered twice in the same day.
McClintock – sponsored by Morgan McDermott Post 7 in Tucson, said he came into the tournament struggling. “Over the summer I’ve had a really bad string, so I was hoping to just finish in the middle of the field,” he said. “(This feels) great, of course. It’s just ... wow.”
McClintock built a 10-point lead heading into the final round and then was all clutch, setting a Legion finals record with a 97.0 on his final 10 shots – including four shots of 10.3 or higher. Gabriel Palermo finished second.
Like Travis, McClintock said shooting played a big role in turning his life around. Both his parents were killed in a motorcycle accident when he was a freshman, and he struggled academically his first two years of high school.
But at his uncle’s urging, he joined the Flowing Wells High School ROTC program. Not coincidentally, he posted grade-point averages of 3.6 and 4.0 over his final two years of high school, was named the state’s 4A/5A AIA Scholar Athlete of the Year and was accepted at the University of Arizona where he’ll study engineering this fall.
“I think it’s mainly affected my academic life,” McClintock said. “Before I started shooting, I had a really low GPA in school. After I started (shooting), that gave me the inspiration to keep my grades up to stay on the team. In the beginning (of high school), my GPA would not have even allowed me to get into a college.”
McClintock got more out of the week than just championships. The schedule for the participants included lunches together, a pizza party and awards banquet.
“This has been the most fun I’ve had in a competition,” McClintock said. “I usually keep to myself, but we had a lot of interaction with other shooters. I got to know a lot of other people (and) made a lot of friends. It was a really good time.”
Travis agreed. “It was a blast,” she said. “I always love coming to matches where I don’t know people because then I have that chance to go out and meet new people (and) make new friends.”
Final standings for the tournament:
Rhiann Travis – Parker County 4-H Shooting Sports in Texas, 2,487.9 points.
Mitchell Van Patten – Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club in Idaho, 2,476.2
Emily Stith – Capitol City Junior Rifle Club in Washington, 2,468.3
Casey Lutz – Meridian Optimist Junior Rifle Club in Idaho, 2,451.1
Jacob Buchanan – Montgomery County 4-H Shooting Sports Club in Texas, 2,455.9
Amy Gentry – Tanana Valley Sportsmen's Association in Alaska, 2,454.2
Grace Taschuk – Post 435 X-Men in Minnesota, 2,452.3
Jack Anderson – Oil City Junior Rifle Team in Pennsylvania, 2,450
Grace Taschuk – Post 435 X-Men in Minnesota, 2,452.3
Adam McClintock – Flowing Wells High School in Arizona, 2,331
Gabriel Palermo – Freeport High School NJROTC in Illinois, 2,315.1
Baylee Boone – R-S Central MCJROTC Sporter in North Carolina, 2,314.6
Larry Maloney – Turlock High School NJROTC in California, 2,308.6
Howard Norrish – Zion Benton High School NJROTC in Wisconsin, 2,297.4
Tyler Jetjomlong – Post 151 in New York, 2,293.8
Jackson Thompson – Sapulps High School MCJROTC in Oklahoma, 2,288.9
Justine Hamilton – Zion Benton High School NJROTC in Wisconsin, 2,282.8