Fort Benning, GA -(AmmoLand.com)- U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) shooters from the International Team finished in top spots at the 2015 USA Shooting (USAS) National Championships for Rifle and Pistol June 24 to July 1 here.
“Overall, Nationals went well for the Team,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Parker, International Team coach. “We had seven people, five (firing) rifle and two (firing) pistol, qualify for the National Team, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
Not only was the national title on the line for each of the Olympic shooting disciplines, but also up for grabs were positions on the U.S. Junior National and National Teams and spots to compete at the August International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan, which will be the last opportunity for American competitors to earn quota spots for the United States.
The Gabala World Cup is also the next to last opportunity for shooting competitors to earn points to qualify for the Olympic Team. One individual per discipline can earn points through competition to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Staff Sgt. George Norton captured the silver medal in his bid for the men’s 3-position championship with a total score of 2,355 over two days of competition. Norton’s second place finish earned him a spot on Team USA to compete at the Gabala World Cup in the men’s 3-position event.
“It’s really exciting,” Norton said. “During my shooting career I haven’t fulfilled as many of the goals I would like, but now it’s finally all starting to come together. I know without the Army I wouldn’t be able to be as competitive as I am. Being in the structured environment that is the Army and being around excellence, the only option for you is to become excellent.”
In the men’s 50 meter prone championship, Sgts. 1st Class Michael McPhail and Eric Uptagrafft won second and third places, respectively. In the two days of firing, McPhail finished with a total score of 1,263.6 and Uptagrafft finished with a score of 1,258.3.
McPhail earned an Olympic quota slot for the United States with a gold-medal finish at the ISSF USA World Cup here in May, followed by a gold medal win in Munich, Germany. After their second- and third-place finishes during the USAS Nationals, McPhail and Uptagrafft will head to the Gabala World Cup to represent the United States in men’s prone rifle.
McPhail is currently ranked by the ISSF as the world’s No. 1 competitor in men’s 50 meter prone rifle. He is also the only person in the United States who is over the point threshold and could be named to the U.S. Olympic Team without having to compete at the Olympic trials.
“It’s not over yet,” Parker said. “We still have a lot of competitions left and, mathematically, (McPhail) hasn’t secured an Olympic spot yet, but he’s in a good position to make the team (through points).”
Another USAMU competitor, Sgt. Brad Balsley won the bronze medal in the rapid fire pistol championship and cemented his spot with Team USA for the Gabala World Cup with a two-day total score of 1,164.
Two more USAMU competitors will also head to the Gabala World Cup: Pfc. Dan Lowe, who took the bronze with a total score of 1,255.2 in the men’s 10 meter air rifle championship; and Sgt. Erin McNeil, who finished with the silver medal in the women’s 3-position championship with a total score of 1,174.
Sgt. 1st Class James Henderson, who secured an Olympic quota at the ISSF USA World Cup here in May, won the silver medal for the men’s 50 meter free pistol championship with a total score of 1,119.
“(The National Championship) showcases who is the best right now, and you get a much more varied competitor base,” Norton said. “You end up being surprised when a competitor comes out of nowhere and shoots really well.”
About The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit
The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s mission is winning national and international shooting competitions and advancing small-arms lethality to demonstrate Army marksmanship capability and enhance marksmanship effectiveness in combat. USAMU is part of the U.S. Army Accessions Brigade and Army Marketing and Research Group.
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