CAMP PERRY, Ohio –-(Ammoland.com)- With the 2016 Olympic events at a close, it was the women who rose up to show the world on the largest competitive stage that they are confident leaders in the shooting realm – winning the only three medals collected by Team USA shooting.
Nineteen-year-old Ginny Thrasher made history as she became the youngest to ever win the first gold medal of the Games during the Women’s 10-meter Air Rifle event. Kim Rhode, famed shotgun Skeet shooter, went on to add to her legacy by earning her sixth consecutive Olympic medal to become the first woman ever to do so along with being the first competitor, man or woman, to earn medals on five different continents. And Corey Cogdell-Unrein came home with her second bronze medal in Women’s Trap during her third Olympic showing.
Back on American soil, as the Olympians made strides in female sports on a global level, the women in Ohio were proving they too compete to succeed on a national level – including those who arrived late to the game in their 50’s and 60’s.
During the annual National Matches in July and August, the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center at Camp Perry hosted a 30 Shot Bench League, where competitors used sporter, precision and AiR15 air rifles to fire 30 shots downrange from a rested position. The highest score in each category was deemed the winner of the match. Over 140 competed in the event, with the women coming out on top of the pack in each division.
Some of those older women earned their victories after taking advantage of the state-of-the art facilities through the Open Public Shooting nights the range offers year-round.
“It’s just what I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And if you call me between 4:30 and 8:30, you’re not going to get ahold of me. This is it – this is where I am,” said Kathy Tribble, 57, of Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Kathy gave an incredible performance to overtake the precision match, where a more accurate rifle is used than in the sporter competition. She recorded a score of 299-21x in the event – only one point away from a perfect 300.
“This is the first that I’ve done anything like this,” speaking of competing in the National match. In the past, she was reluctant to sign up, but a recent health scare pushed her towards taking on the challenge.
“If things didn’t go right, I’m going to have it known that at least one time, I was good enough to shoot in the Nationals,” she added with tears in her eyes.
Growing up, her father was a man who believed that women were meant to stay in the house and unfairly discouraged her from firing any gun. With that notion in the back of her mind, she regrettably spent nearly 40 years without picking up a rifle – that is, until she found the air gun range two years ago.
It was there she discovered that not only did she actually enjoy shooting, but she was even exceptional at the sport. The staff members within provided her with guidance and constantly praised her, telling her that she was a natural.
“To this day, it still doesn’t seem like they’re right. But, the computer can’t be too wrong,” she joked. “I’ve got a 299 in the Nationals.”
Ailed with diabetes and other health complications that limit her activities, Kathy grew bored sitting at home doing nothing but crafts, and she found coming out to the air range helped her forget her health issues.
“I can do it and I don’t have to depend on anyone else to do it for me,” she said. “I feel it’s a sport for anyone that’s physically able to sit here and pull a trigger . . . it’s something that I can do without having to be up physically moving around in order to do it.”
When she comes through the door, her gun and bags are set at her firing point, with the monitor tipped back the way she likes it and her chair turned out for her. She praises the CMP staff for their kindness – on and off the firing line.
“It’s a very rare occasion that one of them doesn’t help me with my bags to my car. I appreciate them being here. They even know the number of the gun I like to shoot,” she said. “That’s partly what feels so nice about coming out here. Everyone is so nice.”
With her first National Match win, Kathy has shown that she has what it takes to be an outstanding markswoman. Air rifle is a difficult, demanding sport that tests the skills of even the most talented shots in the world. Despite the stigma sometimes attached to firearms, Kathy encourages others searching for a fulfilling activity to try out the range for themselves.
“You’ll find that it’s a wonderful, quiet sport. In spite of the noise that’s usually thought of with guns, these are not loud. So, if you put your mind to it, it can become a very, very relaxing sport,” she said. “It’s a challenge between you and the gun as to what you’re getting on the target. You’re challenging yourself.”
She added, “Sometimes it seems, when I get up in the morning, this is what I get up to do. I’m going to keep shooting as long as I possibly can.”
Coming in second behind Kathy was Joyce Edwards, 65, of Marblehead, Ohio, who fired a score of 296-21x.
“I had never shot a gun until about 11 months ago,” Joyce admitted. That was when she discovered the air range at Camp Perry. “I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if it was going to be easy or hard. I thought the rifle was going to have a kick to it, and it doesn’t.””
After visiting the range with her husband, Phil, and firing a few shots downrange, she was hooked. She credits CMP staff members, like Kent Floro and Jackie Slosnerick, for helping her through the complexities of air rifle, such as sight picture, breathing and other marksmanship essentials.
“They’ve been wonderful. Kent talked me through it each time and said, ‘We’re going to do better this time.’ At first I thought that’s a lot of stuff to remember! But after a while, it gets to be routine,” she said.
When her husband went to air pistol, she started using his air rifle. With practice, she became better and better each time, and those around her encouraged her to sign up for the National Match event.
“Everyone said, ‘You know, you ought to try the matches.’ And I’m going, ‘Please, I’m just a housewife. I just come here to play around!’” she said with a smile.
Proving that she’s more than “just a housewife,” she not only surprised her husband and her children by placing second on the National-level, but also herself.
“I really never expected to get to this point, but it’s fun. I like it,” she said.
Proud husband Phil supports her accomplishments – framing her best shot and getting a shadow box for the pins she earns. Joyce’s bout with rheumatoid arthritis causes inconveniences every now and then, but overall, the air range has been a place for her to reach new goals.
“Here, I can get something accomplished. It’s a lot more mental exercise than physical exercise. That’s why I kind of like it. For a few hours, everything clears from my mind and I can concentrate on that,” she said.
“I was surprised when we first came. I expected to see a lot more younger people, but I see they’re our age. And they’re just coming here for a couple of hours to shoot off some pellets and have something to do. It’s exciting, it’s fun,” she added.
Boasted as one of the most advanced air ranges in the country, the competition center is host to hundreds of competitors from around the nation throughout the year. A short drive for Joyce, who visits at least once a week, she is astounded that such a revered spot for the shooting sports world exists only a few minutes away.
“This is in our backyard. I’m so surprised . . . all of these people from other states just coming here to do this. It blows your mind – you don’t realize how important this place is,” she said. “Everyone should come out and try it at least once. They might be very pleasantly surprised. This is amazing, and the people are so nice. To me, that’s what makes it fun.”
In the sporter match, Nora Gallagher, 65, bested a field of 83 competitors, firing a score of 297-18x.
Nora’s air rifle hobby, which began this past April, arose by happenstance when she came to the range looking for some information on her late father’s air rifles. While there, she and her husband, Bill, decided to try a little shooting for themselves.
“From there, we fell in love with it. We’ve been doing it ever since,” she said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
She added, “It is harder than it looks though. There are unique challenges to it. But it’s something anybody can do. And I love this facility – it’s clean, it’s bright, and the people, the staff, they are fabulous.”
Nora said one thing that has really impressed her and her husband is seeing the diversity of the people who shoot on Open Public Nights. From those with disabilities to old and young families, the air range is a place for everyone to enjoy a night of fun.
“What a neat thing,” she said. “And maybe there are people out there who don’t know they can do this. We’ve seen children here with parents – that’s cool. We’ve seen children with grandparents – that’s cool. So it’s a great activity for families, very reasonably priced. It’s just a good time. It really is.”
For her 65th birthday, her husband surprised her with an air rifle of her own. Set with her equipment, she was free to hone her game for the National Match event – which is exactly what she did.
“If I can learn this at 65, and do it well, I think anybody can. That’s kind of interesting. I think that’s part of what I like,” she said. “It’s something people of all ages and abilities can do. That’s a pleasant surprise. And, [the facility] is beautiful.”
On top of the mental and physical benefits the air range provides, there is also a certain social aspect it presents as well. People from her community now go to the range with her on occasion, and Nora has also met more like her – those looking for a fresh interest, challenge and excitement.
“These women have become such good friends. I’ve met fabulous women here. But the guys have been great too,” she said. “I think it’s interesting that we can all compete on the same level. It’s not, you have to be a woman or you have to be a man. You can compete.”
Additionally, Michelle “Miki” Marciniak, 59, of Macomb, Mich., landed in second place behind Nora in the sporter competition as well as fourth overall in the precision match. Leading the next generation of talented female marksmen, Erica Voss, 22, of Wadsworth, Ohio, overtook the AiR15 30 Shot challenge with a score of 293-18x.
Open Public Shooting at the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center at Camp Perry is open August through June, Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5-8 p.m. For more information, visit http://thecmp.org/air/cmp-competition-centers/open-public-shooting/. The CMP also has a CMP Competition Center located in Anniston, Alabama.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.