Friday morning, 30 high school youth stood shoulder-to-shoulder holding a .177 caliber air rifle to compete in The American Legion’s 26th annual Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. By the end of the day, the top eight shooters in both the precision and sporter category were finalized and are advancing to the competitions final round Saturday morning for a chance to win their respective categories championship title.
Follow scoring for the competition’s final round on Saturday at 9 a.m. Mountain Time here.
The 15 competitors in both categories have been competing since Thursday, taking aim in the prone, standing and kneeling position at the USA Shooting Range at the Olympic Training Center. The competitors, who represent air rifle clubs from across the United States, qualified for the Legion’s national competition after advancing through the individual postal match competition that involved more than 1,500 other air rifle competitors.
Unique to this year’s American Legion national air rifle competition is that 24 out of the 30 competitors are girls and two of them are holding the No. 1 spot in their respective categories. Precision category is Taylor Gibson of Salem, Ore., and sporter category is Emma Thompson of Freeport, Ill.; both are first-time Legion national air rifle competitors.
It was music that calmed the nerves of both girls when it came to competing alongside some of the best air rifle shooters in the country – for Thompson, she repeated the lyrics to “Girls Talk Boys” from the newly released “Ghostbusters” movie soundtrack, and for Gibson it was “Starman” by David Bowie. “Music clears my mind and helps eliminates other thoughts that may affect my shooting,” said Thompson, who followed the Legion’s competition schedule prior to the event by training in the morning and afternoon with a lunch break in-between. “It’s such an honor to be here. It was a long time coming to get here.”
For Gibson, the competition “has been really intense but a lot of fun,” she said. “Yesterday I had butterflies, but today I felt like any other day that I shoot. So I’m hoping to go in the same way tomorrow as I did today.”
The finals will be close tomorrow for Gibson, who has a two-point lead over second-place Sarah Osborn of Hampton, Va. As for Thompson, she’s holding a strong 28-point lead over second-place Gabrielle Phelps of Gulfport, Miss.
The following are the top eight finalists in each category, along with their sponsor and current score:
Taylor Gibson – Colonel Allison Junior Rifle Club of Salem, Ore.; 2,372
Sarah Osborn – Patriot Shooting Club of Hampton, Va.; 2,370
Mark Amdahl - Eldorado High School MCJROTC in Albuquerque, N.M.; 2,369
Elizabeth Lorentz – Hellgate Junior Civilian Shooters in Seeley Lake, Mont.; 2,368
Samantha Peterson – Minnesota Centershots in Ham Lake, Minn.; 2,367
Wyatt Openshaw – Seitzland Rifle Team in Parkton, Md.; 2,360
Andre Gross – Webster Junior Marksmen in Ontario, N.Y.; 2,360
Kayla Gadeken – 10X 4H Club in Seward, Neb.; 2,357
Emma Thompson – Freeport High School NJROTC in Freeport, Ill.; 2,276
Gabrielle Phelps – Gulfport High School MCJROTC in Gulfport, Miss.; 2,248
Shauntae Daily – Dead Eye Shooters in Dix, Neb.; 2,233
Lexis Smith – Des Moines North MCJROTC in Iowa; 2,227
Lara Lewis – Lebanon High School JROTC in Lebanon, Ore.; 2,197
Jacie Hoenig – Zion Bention High School NJROTC in Winthrop Harbor, Ill.; 2,191
Jonna Warnken – Mineral County 4H Shooting Sports in Superior, Mont.; 2,189
Jimmy Ellefson – Des Moines North MCJROTC in Iowa; 2,178
The winners of each category will receive a $5,000 college scholarship provided by the Legion and Sons of The American Legion. A $1,000 scholarship, provided by the Auxiliary, will be awarded to the second-place finisher in each category. The precision and sporter champion will attend The American Legion’s national convention in Cincinnati Aug. 26-30 and be honored alongside other Legion youth program champions.