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Air Pistol Athletes Unite from East to West for Progressive-Position Air Pistol National Championships

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (August 3, 2015)

Air pistol athletes from all walks of life became friends and enjoyed both individual and team success at this year’s Progressive Position Air Pistol (PPP) National Championship contested this past Saturday and Sunday.

This year’s championship brought a record 150 competitors to one of two regional venues, USA Shooting’s International Shooting Center in Colorado Springs (which held 85 competitors) or the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) in Ft. Benning, Georgia (which held 65). As athletes competed at the two locations, volunteer staff from both sides of the country totaled the match scores and combined them for regional and overall National titles.  The Western regional also welcomed competitors from South Africa, who visited the Olympic Training Center and were able to get training time at the facility before the PPP Nationals began. This was South Africa’s first time attending the PPP National Championships, and USA Shooting hopes to welcome them back for future competitions.

The South African team from the South African Schools Shooting Union (SANSSU) gave a hand-beaded rhino statue as a perpetual PPP International team trophy which will be on display in USA Shooting lobby. A USA Shooting flag was signed by USA PPP competitors and coaches and was given to the SANSSU team as a memento of their visit to Colorado and the 2015 PPP National Championships. In return, the SANSSU team signed a South African flag and presented it to USA Shooting.

Although the National Championships were filled with many smiles and great celebration, during the awards ceremony there was a moment where many people believed National Assistant Coach Steve Faught might shed a tear. This overwhelmed emotion came from Faught announcing Massachusetts coach and Assistant National Team coach Russ Doucette’s retirement. Doucette, both a dedicated volunteer and pistol coach for the Massachusetts Junior Pistol Team and an important advocate for the growth of Olympic pistol shooting nationwide, announced his retirement prior to the start of PPP and fellow competitors and coaches alike began organizing a small present to give the well-respected coach during the awards ceremony. This present, a T-Shirt signed by fellow volunteers, coaches, and athletes gave Doucette a keepsake for all the memories from his last PPP National Championships.

National Pistol Coach Sergey Luzov announced that there was no way Doucette “could officially retire” due to all of his helpful wisdom and coaching to the sport.  Doucette was able to lead his 2014 National Championship team of Isabel Macaulay (Concord, Massachusetts), Vladlen Vronsky (Brighton, Massachusetts) and Kevin Bennett (Belmont, Massachusetts) to an overall silver medal this year.

Both of this year’s International Standing National Champions came from the Colorado Springs venue, where Anthony McCollum (Purdin, Missouri) earned his way onto USA Shooting’s Junior Olympic Squad for not only a record-setting qualification score of 746, but also for his stellar finals win shortly after.  Finishing after McCollum for the overall Men’s awards included Miles McDonald (Tifton, Georgia) and Charles Englund (Lynchburg, Virginia), who both shot at the Eastern regional in Fort Benning.  Englund was the 2014 National Champion, and McDonald was the 2014 silver medalist.  The high visitor for the International Standing match was Claudio Surmon (SANSSU) who qualified with a 690. Colorado Springs native Kellie Manegdeg (Colorado Springs, Colorado) also requalified for the Junior Olympic Squad, after qualifying earlier this year at the National Junior Olympic Championships. Manegdeg went on to win her final as well, putting her 11 points ahead of silver medalist Rachel Cantrell (Boise, Idaho). Taking bronze behind Cantrell was Alexa Halverson (Colorado Springs, Colorado), who also shot alongside Manegdeg and Cantrell at the Western regional.

Sub-Junior International Standing encompasses the athletes ages 13-14 who are ready to compete at the unsupported standing level early. Beginning at age 15, these athletes will be able to compete alongside their peers in the International Standing match. The National Champions from this category included Cade Jenkins (Loranger, Louisiana), who shot a qualification score of 708. The women’s National Champion was Katelyn Abeln (Douglasville, Georgia), who shot a qualification score of 703.

In the Standing Supported category, athletes use a T-shaped stand to support a counterbalance that holds the pistol in one and weight on the other. This supported system allows for athletes to form good habits in both position and shot approach before moving to the International Standing category.  It was a family affair atop the medal stand Sunday.  On the women’s side, Abbie Leverett (Bainbridge, Georgia) won the National Championship, helping success run in the family for the second year in a row. Taking home the gold for the men’s category was Henry Leverett (Bainbridge, Georgia), Abbie’s brother.  Their brother, Jack, is on the USA Shooting Junior Team having won the 2015 National Junior Olympic Championship.   For the Standing Supported category, the high visitor award was given to Tharina Opperman (SANSSU) who had the second highest qualification score of the match.

In the Basic Supported category, the National Champion with an incredible score of 798 out of a possible 800 points was Nick Guarneri (Pounchatoula, Louisiana). Guarneri only had two targets that scored less than a perfect score of 100 points.  After snatching the title, it’s safe to say that next year we may be seeing Guarneri competing in the Supported category. The Women’s National Champion was Bailey Curren (Lake View, Alabama) with a qualification score of 778. The high visitor for the Basic Supported category was Ernst Roux (SANSSU).

Intended to introduce young athletes to competitive pistol target shooting, the Progressive-Position Pistol Program provides competitive experience and creates an opportunity for youth to begin at an earlier age. As there is no minimum age limit, how early a youth begins depends on their ability to hold, load and shoot an air pistol safely as determined by an experienced pistol coach.  The PPP National Championships provides an early International-style match experience for all ages, and looks to provide a successful program for many years to come.

Orion Scoring Systems provided all match results which are posted here for your convenience: http://www.orionresults.com/team/MatchPage.aspx?MatchID=1.1004.601665096.1

For Regional photos taken at USA Shooting headquarters, click here:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/usashooting/sets/72157656275862760

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National Shooting Sports Foundation