Colorado Springs, CO -(AmmoLand.com)- Plenty of intrigue, intensity and tight scores filled the halls of the USA Shooting ranges the past four days as Women’s Rifle was contested for the 2016 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships (NJOSC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After the dust settled it was two of the NCAA’s brightest stars from this past season that were left claiming National Titles. University of Kentucky freshman Hanna Carr captured the 2016 NJOSC crown in Three-Position Rifle Sunday and Texas Christian University (TCU) sophomore Mindy Miles earned the crown in Air Rifle Tuesday.
Not to be forgotten, West Virginia University sophomore Elizabeth Gratz (Sigel, Illinois) finished off her junior career as the only woman in the open field to medal in both rifle events, closing with a silver medal in Air Rifle after earning bronze in Three-Position. Her efforts in the Air Rifle match moved her back on to the National Junior Team as well. However, her success was secondary to the opportunity to compete alongside her sisters including 16-year-old Olivia and 13-year-old Martina, who earned a bronze medal in the J3 (14 years and younger) classification in Three-Position.
“Having them here competing was really special for me,” Elizabeth said. “Three siblings at JOs, I’m not sure that’s happened before and if it has, not very often.”
She also had some wise advice as she departs her final Junior Olympic competition.
“I’ve witnessed a lot of us that are stressing out over the match about not doing well,” she said. “I’ve certainly done my fair share of that. It’s just not all that beneficial. This time, I wanted to make sure just to have fun this week. We get too focused on score and outcome and it feels like work. So, just remembering what got you into the sport in the first place and just enjoying what you do, helps a lot.”
In a match that came down to the very last shot, Carr (Versailles, Kentucky) earned top honors in Three-Position edging TCU’s Rachel Garner (Celina, Texas) in the Final by one point to claim the overall title. With both women tied heading into the Finals, you knew something special could happen to decide the title, and it did. Carr would erase a 4.8 point deficit to Garner to win mostly off the strength of the second five-shot series of standing shots. On that series Carr would average a stellar 10.34 over those five shots to overcome the then 4.7 disadvantage she had when Garner shot 5.5 points worse during that same series.
With the win, Carr reconfirms her position on the USA Shooting National Junior Team while Garner is a new addition.
“I didn’t concern myself with the outcome as long as I did what I knew I could do,” said Carr. “The scores weren’t as high as I would like to see, but overall I was pleased. I’ve practiced more than I’ve ever practiced in my life from shooting once a week to shooting five or six days a week, but I’m loving the sport more now than ever. All the work, has definitely made me feel like a better shooter. It doesn’t feel as much like luck now.”
To earn top billing in Air Rifle, Miles would start and finish strong to help cast aside a not so great middle, or at least by her lofty standards. Her day one qualifying score of 416.7 was tops by two points over her nearest competitor. Day two’s score of 412.0 was fourth best of all the eventual finalists, but a strong final in which she battled Gratz and Murray State’s MacKenzie Martin (Fairhaven, Massachusetts) helped seal the 2.4-point win. Gratz would earn silver overall after her second-place finish while 17-year-old Casey Lutz (Meridian, Idaho) would earn overall bronze after a fifth-place Finals finish. Lutz will be teammates with Miles and Garner next season at TCU.
“I was trying to take a break right before with school and after NCAAs,” Miles, the NCAA runner-up a month ago, said afterwards. “I wasn’t sure where I was going to shoot. So, I came in with a little unknown. The first day surprised me, and so I said ‘I can work with that.’ Shooting the good final really picked me up and it’s always exciting to battle those top NCAA foes.”
Her biggest reward may have come at the awards ceremony where Olympic shooting legend Lones Wigger talked about how the sportsmanship she showed in calling a non-shot at the recent NCAA match is the truest sense of character in our sport.
On being pointed out by Wig, Miles had this to say: “He’s a legend. I’ve always looked up to him and for him to say that about me is very sweet of him. I couldn’t imagine anything that would make my day better. Honestly, that’s better than the medal and it’s so touching of him.”
Carr would be heard from in Air Rifle as well, laying down a world-level score of 418.4 during Tuesday’s qualification match. Let’s just say that score would have placed her sixth in qualifying and earned her a spot in the Finals at the World Cup match in Rio de Janeiro that was contested Saturday. After an eighth-place finish in the Final, she’d finish seventh overall.
Emily Stith (Colorado Springs, Colorado) earned both event medals in the J2 (ages 15-17) division. The 17-year-old Stith distinguished herself throughout as the only athlete her age to earn a spot in both event Finals finishing fifth in Three-Position and eighth in Air overall. J2 silver medalists were Taylor Gibson (Salem, Oregon) in Air and Sarah Osborn in Three-Position. J2 bronze medalists were Osborn in Air and Aerial Hall (North Richland Hills, Texas) in Three-Position.
Katie Zaun (Buffalo, North Dakota) swept the top of the podium in the J3 division. J3 silver medalists were Dawn Mcllwain (Meridian, California) in Three-Position and Lily Polakovic (Roseville, California) in Air. J3 bronze medalists were Gratz (Sigel, Illinois) in Three-Position and Marleigh Duncan (Wake Forest, North Carolina) in Air.
The 2016 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships rolls on with the start of the Pistol program beginning Friday. A full event preview will be distributed Thursday.
For full Women’s Rifle results, click here.
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.