U.S. Army Junior Rifle National Championships - Interviews with Competitors
1. Kristen Hemphill, 2018 U.S. Army Junior Rifle National Smallbore Rifle Champion, from Comfort, Texas, and the Texas Hill Country Rifle Team
2. Jaden Fraser, 2018 U.S. Army Junior Rifle National Sporter Rifle Champion, from Volunteer High School Navy Junior Reserves Officer Training Corp (NJROTC), also from Church Hill, Tennessee
3. Macey Way, 2018 U.S. Army Junior Rifle National Precision Rifle Champion, Macey Way from Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the NTCSC-Citius Rifle Team
Story of event:
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Feb. 3, 2018)— The top junior shooting teams in the country competed in the 2018 U.S. Army National Junior Air Rifle Championship (USANJARC) Feb. 1-3, hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) and the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), at Pool International Indoor Range Complex.
More than 190 competitors on 40 teams qualified from a field of over 2,000 individual marksmen and over 200 teams nationwide to compete at this year’s championship.
The three-day competition featured matches in the Smallbore, Sporter and Precision Rifle classes. Each day culminated in finals pitting the top eight shooters from each class against one another in a series of rounds scored to one-tenth of a point.
The highlight of the competition happened when day one final winner Jaden Fraser from Church Hill, Tennessee, came back after trailing the entire day two Sporter Final to win with her last shot of the competition.
“I am on cloud nine right now, it went until the last shot, and I have never experienced anything as pressure filled as this match,” said Fraser.
“It is an honor to shoot with these other competitors, at such a phenomenal place like this,” continued Fraser. “This entire week has been a dream come true.”
Fraser capped her dream week by being crowned 2018 Individual National Champion of the Sporter Class. Fraser’s team, Volunteer High School Navy Junior Reserves Officer Training Corp (NJROTC), also from Church Hill, Tennessee, claimed the Sporter Class National Championship Team title, followed by Nation Ford A out of Fort Mill, South Carolina, and County A-team from Pueblo, Colorado, in second and third place respectively.
“It is hard to be a good marksman without the support of your team,” said Fraser. “And we have a great team at Volunteer High. They are the best of the best.”
The rest of the 2018 Sporter Class individual podium included 2nd place finisher Matthew Smith from Walhalla, South Carolina, and the Walhalla 1 Team. Third place went to Howie Edison from Superior, Montana, and the Mineral County 4H Shooting Sports Team.
The championship weekend began with a clinic conducted by USAMU’s International Rifle Team. The Soldiers discussed a range of topics with the junior competitors including mental preparation, dealing with failure, having confidence and enjoying the journey of being a competitive marksman.
“This is an opportunity for young people from all over the country to come out and compete against each other. We run a clinic and do a lot of mentorship with the competitors and teach them what we have learned during our experiences while connecting America’s people with America’s Army,” said Sgt. 1st Class Hank Gray, USAMU International Rifle Team, team chief and noncommissioned officer in charge of the event.
Roy McClain, director of the Georgia Youth Shooting Sport Foundation said, “I believe it is a tremendous opportunity for these young competitive shooters to interact with American heroes and be given training and guidance by them.”
“The USAMU is a wonderful host and partner in this event and Soldiers of this unit make this event a great opportunity for these young athletes to compete at this level,” said McClain.
Doug Lamb, parent and co-coach of the Acorns rifle team from Centreville, Virginia, agreed with those sentiments. “This event is such a unique experience for these young competitive shooters because they get to meet the USAMU Soldiers, and learn from some of the best marksmen in the world.”
“The USAMU Soldiers are great, very helpful and encouraging to our young athletes,” said Connie McGhin, mother of one of the junior competitors on the Old Mill Rangers Rifle Team out of Griffin, Georgia. “My daughter really admires and respects the USAMU Soldiers and values the life lessons and skills they teach the competitive shooters who come to this event.”
The smallbore competition was in its second iteration at the USANJARC. It is styled after the Olympic and International shooting competitions where competitors shoot from the prone, standing and kneeling positions. Competitors must qualify for a winner-take-all final where qualifying scores do not carry over and the winner is crowned champion, according to Gray.
Kristen Hemphill from Comfort, Texas, and the Texas Hill Country Rifle Team won this year’s Smallbore Individual National Championship title. She credited being balanced and relaxed during the pressure-packed final with helping her claim the title.
The remaining spots on the Smallbore Individual podium were filled by second place finisher Abigail Gordon from Granbury, Texas, and last year’s inaugural winner Matthew Sanchez from Tampa, Florida, who claimed third.
The Smallbore National Championship Team title went to Texas Hill Country from Comfort, Texas, led by Hemphill. Second place went to the National Training Center Shooting Club (NTCSC)-Citius team from Colorado Springs, Colorado, while the Granbury Marine Corps Junior Reserves Officer Training Corp (MCJROTC) Team 1, from Granbury, Texas, finished third.
Bonus points received by competitors in the Sporter and Precision class final matches were added to qualification scores to determine overall winners in each category.
The 2018 Individual Precision Class National Champion is Macey Way from Colorado Springs, Colorado, while the NTCSC-Citius Rifle Team out of Colorado Springs, Colorado claimed the Precision National Champion Team title.
“This is one of my favorite competitions, and I am very happy to win again,” said Way, who won the individual title in 2017.
Other spots on the Precision Class Individual National Championship podium included second place winner Emmie Sellers and the NTCSC-Altius Rifle Team out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Third place went to day two finals winner Makenzie Sheffield and the Granbury MCJORTC 1 Team out of Granbury, Texas.
Sheffield, who just started competing in rifle marksmanship over a year and a half ago, was pleased that her hard work and always-do-your-best attitude paid off with winning a precision final.
Team champions were determined by the overall compilation of scores from each member.
The 2018 U.S. Army Junior Precision Class National Champion Team is NTCSC-Citius from Colorado Springs, Colorado followed by second and third place team finishers: Acorns Steel out of Centreville, Virginia and Granbury MCJROTC 1 from Granbury, Texas.
The weekend culminated in an awards banquet conducted by the USAMU and the Civilian Marksmanship Program, in which the top three finishers in each category received a trophy and medal for their accomplishments.
USAMU supports the nation’s youth by fostering junior participation in noteworthy state and national rifle competitions, promoting firearms safety and connecting the nation’s youth with the expertise and professionalism of the Army and its Soldiers.