(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – June 28, 2019) – A little more than a year before the Olympic Games and this 2019 Rifle/Pistol National Championships has been a show of Olympic talent as they get primed for another Olympic attempt while competing in Fort Benning, Georgia.
Lucas Kozeniesky (Fairfax, Virginia) and Keith Sanderson (Colorado Springs, Colorado) made it four Olympic veterans earning titles to date, joining Nick Mowrer (Butte, Montana) and Ginny Thrasher (Springfield, Virginia) who did so with ease on Wednesday. There was a bit more drama involved Thursday, however.
Kozeniesky consistency was the key to his victory over the two-day match as he was the only shooter in the field to shoot above 626 in each of the two Qualification matches. The U.S. Marksmanship Unit’s Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) put up the biggest mark of all Wednesday with a 629.3, but could not duplicate that Thursday, shooting a score 6.2 points lower. Despite winning the Final over Kozeniesky on a dramatic final shot, it wouldn’t be enough in the end and he’d have to settle for second. Still, his shooting skill has been superlative at these Nationals after earning the national title in Three-Position Rifle.
For Kozeniesky, that’s now his third Air Rifle title in four years having previously won in 2016 and 2017.
“Air gun was a good experience for me,” Kozeniesky said. “I have been working hard as we are heading into Olympic Trials. Pan Ams is next month and there are still things to be improving on to get to where I need to be. Overall, I’m pretty happy with my progress and my performance this week. This is my sixth Nationals appearance and my third National Title so that’s pretty neat.”
University of Kentucky sophomore Will Shaner (Colorado Springs, Colorado) earned the bronze medal and then would later climb one step higher in the Junior competition with a silver medal, but only by the slimmest of margins — .4 points to be exact. Shaner was 1.9 points back of high school standout Matt Sanchez (Tampa, Florida) and would win the Final to Sanchez’s fourth-place finish, but like Sherry before, it just wasn’t quite enough on this day.
Brandon Mach (Riley Township, Michigan) would come away with the bronze medal while Benjamin Salas (Tampa, Florida) and Braden Peiser (San Angelo, Texas) earned top honors in the J2 (15-17-year-olds) and J3 (14 and younger) divisions.
Sanderson earned his seventh national title in Rapid Fire Pistol, his first since 2015. Behind a strong 584 Wednesday, he held a 10-point advantage on the other Finalists and had secured the win before the Finals began. He’d go on to win the Final too, but not before winning a shoot-off with Henry Leverett (Bainbridge, Georgia), 5-4. Henry’s older sibling, Jack, would finish third.
Of note, six-time Olympian and three-time defending U.S. champion Emil Milev (Hilliard, Ohio) tied the Qualification score of Sanderson (1164) but withdrew from the Final.
Jack Leverett would exact some brotherly revenge on Henry in the Junior final, defeating him by two points by virtue of a one-point Qualification advantage and the Finals win. Ryan Yi (Diamond Bar, California) would finish third while Paul Kang (Los Angeles, California) and Sky Lim (Rancho Cucamonga, California) earned top honors in J2 and J3 respectively.
Friday’s action includes Women’s Sport Pistol, Women’s Prone Rifle, Free Pistol and Paralympic competition in both disciplines.
NOTE: ELEY USA’s Michele Makucevich presented the ELEY High School All-American Awards today in both Air and Smallbore Rifle. Here’s a list of the outstanding rifle talent identified by USA Shooting Team sponsor ELEY.
Rank / Name / Graduation Year
1 Matthew Sanchez 2020
2 Macey Way 2019
3 Katie Zaun 2022
4 Molly McGhin 2020
5 Grace Taschuk 2019
6 Claire O’Neel 2019
7 Scott Rockett 2021
8 Philip Becker 2020
9 Rebecca Lamb 2020
10 Madelynn Erickson 2020
Rank / Name / Graduation Year
1 Katie Zaun 2022
2 Matthew Sanchez 2020
3 Grace Taschuk 2019
4 Kyle Kutz 2020
5 Kristen Derting 2019
6 Jaden Thompson 2019
7 Scott Rockett 2021
8 Gavin Barnick 2021
9 Mason Hamilton 2019
10 Martina Gratz 2020
ELEY is a Proud Sponsor of the USA Shooting Rifle and Pistol Teams: ELEY Limited, manufacturer of the world’s most consistently accurate rimfire ammunition, has been the Official Sponsor and Official Supplier of .22 rimfire ammunition of the USA Shooting rifle and pistol teams since 2000. For more information on ELEY and their products, please visit eley.co.uk.
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