Carson Saabye Becomes Youngest National Team Member Ever
Fort Benning, GA -(AmmoLand.com)- Youth was served Sunday to highlight day four of the USA Shooting National Championships taking place in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Pistol shooter Carson Saabye earned a bronze medal in Women’s Air Pistol and thus became the youngest National Team member in the history of USA Shooting. Saabye earned two of the medals handed out in Air Pistol. Along with her bronze medal, she was the runner-up to Lydia Paterson (Kansas City, Kansas) in the junior event. She’ll compete later this week in the Sport Pistol event.
Paterson was joined on the top step of the podium by Will Brown (Twin Falls, Idaho), Justin Ahn (Diamond Bar, California), Courtney Anthony (Lexington, Nebraska), three-time Olympian Matt Emmons (Browns Falls, New Jersey), Air Force cadet Spencer Brandon (Kingsport, Tennessee), Reya Kempley (Carson City, Nevada) and Virginia Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia).
Emmons completed a fantastic week of shooting by claiming his second national title in Men’s Prone Rifle after winning the Three-Position event in record fashion as well. Joining him on the podium was U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) athletes Michael McPhail (Darlington, Wisconsin) and Eric Uptagrafft (Phenix City, Alabama). Thrasher ‘s success continued in the Women’s non-Olympic event of Prone Rifle. She added a Junior National title to go along with a second-place finish in Women’s Air Rifle and a bronze in Junior Air Rifle. Sarah Beard (Danville, Indiana) also became a double medalist, adding a silver medal behind Kempley in the open competition of Prone Rifle, to her strong golden performance in Air Rifle.
Overshadowing it all was a girl just three years into the sport and getting set to enter the eighth grade at Lewis Palmer Middle School near her hometown of Larkspur, Colorado, just outside Colorado Springs. She’s a straight-A student, a member of the National Junior Honor Society, and shooting isn’t the only sport she’s good at. She’s the starting shortstop for her softball team, Team Colorado Rawlings, which last week won the Triple Crown state championship and qualified to play at Nationals later this summer in Park City, Utah.
She’s part of an rising group of junior competitors training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of the National Training Center Junior Shooting Club program. Her teammate, 14-year-old Will Shaner, broke a J3 14 years and younger) national record in Men’s Prone Rifle on his way to a silver medal finish in the junior division and earning National Junior Team status with USA Shooting. He was the high J3 finisher in Three-Position Rifle earlier this week.
“Carson continues to amaze us all with her accomplishments,” said Jim Shaver, one of the club’s founders. “I see no end to her string of successes. Off the firing line, she is an easy-going, ain’t no big deal kind of kid. But focusing and shooting 10s makes her a very big deal on the firing line. Her secret may be that she is an elite junior softball player also, so she practices focusing more than many shooters – bat on ball, or pellet to the 10-ring.”
Given the longevity of the athletes in this sport and the payoffs that come with experience, shooting is a sport hard to break through the clutter and ranks early in your career. Never before has anyone ever broken through as soon as Saabye. Five-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode was a National Team member at age 14. Saabye’s podium partner today, Paterson, was a National Team member at age 16.
Earning National Team honors means she’s potentially qualified to compete at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in August in Gabala, Azerbaijan, with USA Shooting still looking to earn the second of two Olympic quota spots. Paterson earned the first country quota in World Cup Munich earlier this month. That’s a decision her father [Eric], family and coaches will sit and weigh, as they balance all that comes now with being an elite athlete in the Olympic pipeline and trying to maintain the relative innocence of youth.
“It’s kind of like it’s not actually real,” said Saabye, when asked how she was feeling. “It’s a dream or something and I’m just really happy about it.”
She got involved in the sport because her dad made her go to the range, hoping to find someone in the family to shoot alongside him. She had no desire to shoot rifle, which was Eric’s hope, but she was fascinated by pistol.
“I love shooting because it’s difficult mentally and still challenging physically,” she explained. “It’s unlike any other sport because I can shoot with people who just started, Olympians and people of all ages. It’s a personal sport, so it’s just me controlling my outcome and everyone here is nice and supportive. I would like to experience the Olympic dream and go as far as it will take me. I’ll compete in this sport as long as I’m having fun.”
“We’re very excited for her success,” said Eric. “Obviously, it’s always exciting when a kid achieves in public what you see them do in practice. She’s a pretty special kid and sets hard goals and works hard for them.”
As for the next steps, Eric is taking a cautious approach.
“I think it’s important that she grows into her skills emotionally too. There’s no advantage putting her into high-pressure situations that actually might take the fun out of it.”
Monday brings the conclusion of Men’s Rapid Fire Pistol in which Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) is leading by four points after earning top qualifying score and a finals win Sunday, along with the start of Men’s Air Rifle and Women’s Three-Position Rifle.
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About USA Shooting
USA Shooting, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, was chartered by the United States Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body for the sport of shooting in April 1995. USA Shooting’s mission is to prepare American athletes to win Olympic medals, promote the shooting sports throughout the U.S. and govern the conduct of international shooting in the country.