Competititon winners Hailey Smith and Emily Stith with American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt after the 2017 The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports finals at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday, July 22. Photo by Chet Strange/The American Legion

Colorado, Illinois youth hold lead to capture Legion air rifle titles

Precision shooter Emily Stith and sporter shooter Hailey Smith held on to their No. 1 position heading into The American Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Championship round to capture the win in their respective categories. The top eight air rifle competitors in both categories fired 10 shots in the standing position at the Olympic Training Center’s USA Shooting Range in Colorado Springs, Colo., on July 22.

The sporter shooters fired first and though Smith had an eight-point lead over Levi Carlson heading into the finals, he nearly caught up to her but she held on and claimed the Legion’s sporter championship title within .7 of a shot. The finals ended for Smith with an overall score of 2330.6 and second-place finisher Carlson of 2329.9.

Smith said air rifle finals have always been her weakness when it comes to shooting, but what kept her hanging on to first place was “that these were the last shots I’ll ever make. So it was awesome that The American Legion gave me this opportunity,” said 18-year-old Smith of Winthrop Harbor, Ill. She will be attending Marquette University in Milwaukee on a Navy ROTC full ride scholarship.

A 10.9 shot is a perfect score during the Legion’s air rifle final round. When Stith approached the firing line alongside the other seven precision finalists, she shot nothing below a 10.1. For her, that was below what she normally shoots which is in the 10.4 range, but she said she it was still a good final for it being her last competition. Stith will be leaving late August to join the U.S. Army marksmanship unit in Fort Benning, Ga.

“With this competition I just went in with the mindset to have fun and come in here knowing that this was my last (air rifle) competition before I head out. So I went out with a bang,” said 18-year-old Stith of Colorado Springs. “The American Legion has provided me with such an amazing opportunity to connect with some awesome shooters so I’m really thankful.”

Down one point and in third place heading into the precision’s final round, Rebecca Lamb of Virginia came back to claim second place. She attributes the comeback to not paying attention to the scores of her competitor’s shots being read and instead keeping her rifle on her shoulder to stay calm and focused.

“These matches really test your endurance, but it’s been an exciting competition,” said Lamb, who shot on the firing line Saturday alongside two of her teammates from the Arlington Optimist-Acorns Combined Junior Rifle Club. The three girls – Lamb, Amity Ermarth (fourth-place) and Niya Burney (eighth-place) – claim that they made it to the Legion’s tournament because of their positive attitude.

“We all support each other,” Burney said. “Before every match (this week) we went up to each other and said, you can do this. We have this positivity that has helped place us here.”

The competitors had an audience of family and American Legion leadership, including National Commander Charles E. Schmidt, Americanism Chairman Richard Anderson of Connecticut, Department of Colorado Commander Terri Clinton and immediate past Department Commander Jay Bowen.

“This is exciting,” Schmidt said. “All these young people here, Legionnaires made it happen. That’s our responsibility; it’s part of that fourth cardinal principle of education for our youth – teaching them about marksmanship and gun safety, but also help their confidence.

“These (air rifle) youth are the best of the best and The American Legion made it happen. We just made another good thing happen by supporting these youth in our communities.”

As the championship winners of their respective category, Stith and Smith both earned a $5,000 scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to the Legion’s national convention in Reno, Nev., Aug. 18-22, where they will be honored alongside other Legion youth program champions. Precision shooter Carlson and sporter shooter Lamb earned a $1,000 scholarship for their second-place finish.

The following are the top eight competitor’s championship round scores and overall scores:

Precision

Emily Stith of Colorado, NTCS Altius – 104.7/2,477

Rebecca Lamb of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 101.2/2,461

Annabelle Stanec of Ohio, Ashland Eagles – 98.1/2,459

Amity Ermarth of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 98.8/2,451

Calista Smoyer of Pennsylvania, Ontelaunee Jr Rifle Team 3 – 98.3/2,447

Noelle Christensen of Texas, Texas Hill Country Shooting Club – 100.7/2,449

Grace Taschuk of Minnesota, American Legion Post 334 Junior Rifle Club – 102.2/2,445

Niya Burney of Virginia, Acorns JRC – 99.6/2,442

Sporter

Hailey Smith of Illnois, Zion Benton NJROTC – 87.6/2,330

Levi Carlson of South Carolina, Nation Ford High School MCJROTC – 94.9/2,329

Jesseca Montcrieff of Florida, Oviedo #1 – 92.8/2,311

Mackayla Bourgeois of Mississippi, Gulfport MCJROTC – 87.4/2,301

Nathan Fahrenbrook of Nebraska, Western Nebraska Shooting Sports – 92.5/2,294

Lindsay Strohacker of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 85.4/2,278

Brooke Gilliard of Georgia, Coffee County 4H – 88.8/2,271

Linsey Kleckner of Illinois, Freeport NJROTC – 76.9/2,268