Top 16 Legion air rifle competitors advance to final round
2023 American Legion Junior 3-Position Air Rifle Championship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday, July 21. Photo by Jennifer Blohm/The American Legion

Top 16 Legion air rifle competitors advance to final round

Since Thursday morning, 30 youth marksmen from across the country have competed in four matches and fired 240 shots inside the USA Shooting Range at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for The American Legion’s Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship. The scores were aggregated late afternoon Friday to advance the top eight in both the precision and sporter category to Saturday’s finals. 

Unlike the past two days where the competitors fired 20 shots each in three positions – prone, kneeling and standing – the 16 athletes will fire 10 shots in the standing position for the final round. Follow the finals here at 9 a.m. Mountain Time. 

Gracie Dinh of Huntsville, Ark., heads into the finals in first place with an aggregate score of 2,379. The 17-year-old rising high school senior has been shooting for five years and enjoys “trying to get the perfect shot,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist so this is kind of my thing. I like the consistency too; you’re doing the same thing over and over again.”

She heads into the final round one point ahead of second-place Jacob Wisman of Independence, W.Va. With that tight lead, she is still excited for what the finals hold.

“I love finals; it’s always fun to shoot finals,” said Dinh, whose coach always tells her to “stay in my lane and focus on what I need to do. Get what I need to get done.”

The two matches a day for two days tested many of the athletes mentally and physically. “This competition has definitely been a new challenge,” said Charles Bratton, of Clover, S.C., who heads into the final round of sporter in first place with an aggregate score of 2,229. “I’ve been to competitions that span multiple days before, but never any that were two matches per day. So it’s definitely been a test of endurance and stamina. But it’s been really fun.”

Bratton, 18, started air rifle competition his freshman year in high school after trying out for basketball. “I was one of the shortest people there (at basketball tryouts) and I thought, this isn’t going to work. I’ll try (shooting) and fell in love with it. I like that it’s an individual sport; I’m very OCD about everything, so I like that I can dial everything in precisely.”

As he heads into tomorrow’s competition with a 16-point lead over second place, Bratton is going to “try to erase everything that’s happened so far, try to start from a new position, not let it be in my head the rankings and everything, just try to do my best.”

Sixth-place position for the finals is Jennifer Zermeno whose sister, Samantha, was crowned the 2022 American Legion Junior 3-Position Air Rifle National Championship sporter champion. Samantha is who inspired Jennifer to get into air rifle.

“We are really close,” Jennifer said of her sister. “I was really excited to come here because she came here and had a lot of fun. This was my goal for the whole year.”

The advice Samantha gave her younger sister before headed into The American Legion competition was “to relax and not look at the other shooters because ultimately, that is just going to affect yourself. She told me to do my very best and think of every single shot one at a time.”

The top eight precision shooters for Saturday’s finals and their aggregate score:

1.     2,379 – Gracie Dinh of Huntsville, Ark.

2.     2,378 – Jacob Wisman of Independence, W.Va

3.     2,375 – Griffin Lake of Emmaus, Pa.

4.     2,374 – Megan Jaros of Roseville, Minn.

5.     2,374 – Caroline Martin of Nemo, Texas

6.     2,372 – Jack Ogoreuc of Grove City, Pa.

7.     2,371 – Claudia Muzik of Green Springs, Ohio

8.     2,370 – Bremen Butler of Fort Wayne, Ind.


The top eight sporter shooters for Saturday’s finals and their aggregate score:

1.     2,229 – Charles Bratton of Clover, S.C.

2.     2,213 – Nathan Krokstrom of Cape Coral, Fla.

3.     2,204 – Abril DeCastro of Fort Mill, S.C.

4.     2,195 – Hope Dobek of Des Moines, Iowa

5.     2,186 – Kees Vadergriff of Fort Mill, S.C.

6.     2,178 – Jennifer Zermeno of Fort Mill, S.C.

7.     2,175 – Ashley Carr of Alliance, Neb.

8.     2,169 – Rylie Stoeser of Ft. Pierre, S.D.