Catherine Green, left, from Coventry, R.I., won the precision championship, while Hannah Black of Yorktown, Va., won the sporter championship. Photo by Sean Crosier

Air rifle championship crowns two shooters

On Aug. 7, the top 16 participants competing in The American Legion's Junior Air Rifle National Championship woke to a beautiful sunny day in Colorado Springs, Colo., as they prepared for the final shoot-off. Tension was high as the eight participants in both the precision and sporter category were competing for the championship title in category and the $2,500 scholarship donated by The Sons of The American Legion.

The competition got under way with the sporter category shooting 10 single shots in the standing position. In less than hour into the competition, Hannah Black from Yorktown, Va., claimed the 2010 sporter champion title after firing a 2312.0 out of 2509. Black shoots for the Lafayette Gun Club of Virginia and was sponsored by Post 273.

"I had a fun time with the competition, and it was nice making friends with the other competitors to help ease my nerves," Black said. "Winning the sporter category is a great accomplishment for me."

Following the same routine of 10 shots in standing position was the precision category where many competitors shot over 10.4 out of 10.9. After lots of excitement and applause, Catherine Green from Coventry, R.I., claimed the 2010 precision champion with a finished score of 2460.3 out of a possible 2509. Green shoots for the Newport Junior Rifle Team and was sponsored by Portsmouth Post 18.

"I was so nervous going into finals, but I'm excited to have won," Green said. "I did have a good-luck charm with me, and that was a small Kermit the Frog."

While the precision and sporter category participants took aim, many family members and coaches watched from the sidelines in anticipation. One of the anxious, yet excited, coaches was Nathan Hendrix from Mississippi, who was at the event to support one of his athletes, James Luke South from the sporter category. Hendrix has been a youth shooting coach for the past nine years and knows that some shooters feed off the tension during a competition while others collapse.

"Once shooters grasp the three positions, the sport becomes 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," Hendrix said. "I work with their heads to keep them from getting nervous by putting them under pressure at the shooting range so when they get to a match, I just tell them to have fun. The thing about shooting is that each shot is an individual attempt to be your best."

Meanwhile, after being a part of The American Legion's Junior Air Rifle National Championship since its beginning 20 years ago, Jack and Marlene Duncan are saying farewell. Jack and Marlene have decided to enjoy the relaxation of retirement after 40 years of volunteering for multiple shooting sports programs and coaching youth. But as a past California State Air Rifle and Pistol Champion in her age category, Marlene's shooting days are long from being over. Now that she will have more free time, Marlene is going to take aim in her 20x30 gun room which includes an individual shooting range.

"I have been a coach and involved with many other activities, but The American legion Junior Air Rifle National Championship has a special spot in my heart for the fact that I have been here 20 years, I have been calling the line, and I have been working with the kids," Marlene said. "And it has been a fantastic honor to be able to work with the Legion because it's one of the better programs that we have within the shooting community. As a volunteer, the payback you get is hugs and smiles from the kids and the staff; we are all a part of the Legion family."

Top five finishers: Precision - out of a possible 2,509 points

1. Catherine Green - 2460.3; Coventry, R.I.; shoots for Newport Junior Rifle Team; sponsored by Portsmouth Post 18. 2. Matthew Martin - 2453.0; Eagle River, Alaska; shoots for Borealis Bullseyes; sponsored by Spenard Post 28. 3. Danielle Foster-2446.9; Newport News, Va.; shoots for Lafayette Gun Club of Virginia; sponsored by Post 273. 4. Magdalena Mica - 2446.5; Clearwater, Fla.; shoots for Wyoming Antelope Club; sponsored by Augustus Ruser Post 273. 5. Bryan Zavala - 2436.9; Lytle, Texas; shoots for Bordelon Rifles/Central Catholic High School; sponsored by Post 0592.

Top five finishers: Sporter - out of a possible 2,509 points

1. Hannah Black - 2312.0; Yorktown, Va., shoots for the Lafayette Gun Club of Virginia; sponsored by Post 273. 2. Yvonne Swiontek - 2302.8; Beach Park, Ill.; shoots for Zion-Benton Township High School JROTC; sponsored by Zion-Benton Post 865. 3. Hunter Firebaugh - 2264.0; Albuquerque, N.M.; shoots for LaCueva Marine Corps JROTC; sponsored by Post 13. 4. James South - 2253.6; Iuka, Miss.; shoots for Cross Road Sports Shooting; sponsored by Perry A. Johns Post 6. 5. Ryan Holcombe - 2251.4; Rayville, La.; shoots for Rayville High School AJROTC; sponsored by Post 122.