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Seven days of shooting; Temperatures over 110, sand and wind, even a spot of rain (yes, really), this years Nationals had it all. There were flawless performances, misses, no-shoots, ricochets, and reshoots, malfunctions, running and gunning, slipping, sliding, dust-kicking, high-speed shooting action with some nail-biting finishes.

With the IPSC World Championships just a few days away, the top shooters were hoping for some solid performances to propel them to Greece and hopefully a repeat of USA's impressive medal haul from three years ago.

Spread over four days, the action started with three divisions; Revolver, Open and Limited-10.

REVOLVER DIVISION

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Shooting Rob Leatham’s S&W 625, Julie Golob began her hunt for the only Nationals title she has never won, but standing in her way was the formidable ‘First Lady of Revolvers’, Annette Aysen.

Aysen stamped her authority on the match from the start opening an impressive twenty-one point lead, it would have been much higher but a smooth run by Julie on the bridge stage helped lessen the damage. Suspended by wires the bridge wobbled horribly and the four paper targets and six 6” plates that were cowering behind steel-cover made this an exercise in accuracy. With the same array on both sides of the berm the shooter had to move from one end of the bridge to the other and this resulted in some nervous moments as it was easy to lose balance.

There were lots of small stages on the second day of shooting and Julie capitalized with some exceptional runs to take five of the six from Annette, changing a deficit to an impressive fifty-five point lead.

Accuracy and smooth reloads are the key elements in this division and Julie’s reloading style was a marked contrast with the 2010 Champion. Julie bends over the gun and peers down the cylinder to push the fresh rounds straight down.

It looked slow, but that precision prevented fumbling and saved her valuable seconds. Aysen being more familiar with this type of gun holds it at almost a forty-five degree angle, when the reloads work they are quicker this way, but under pressure it is easier to miss the cylinder.

I asked Julie about the differences between shooting Revolver and Production;

Working a double action trigger versus the trigger on my M&P's took some getting used to.”, Julie explained. At first the transition was challenging but training with both was really beneficial. With revolver, trigger control is everything and knowing my reloads weren't my strength, I really focused on it. Extra shots meant extra reloads so I knew I needed to call every single shot in order to win.

Day three was a stronger one for Aysen as she took three big stages away from Golob but Julie’s win on Stage 19 reduced the loss and her lead increased further to sixty-one points. Although convincing wins from Annette on Stages 5 and 6 on the final day cut into that lead, it was too late to catch Julie.

Golob finished with a reduced thirty-five point lead to become the first person in USPSA history to win all six National titles.

OPEN DIVISION

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Its all about style; Not style in the fashion sense, though this years crop of brightly colored shooting apparel certainly added a dash of flair to the match, we are referring to shooting style. Shooters come in all shapes, sizes and ages and the top competitors have trained hard to maximize their strengths and compensate for any weaknesses. With all the top women gathered onto a single Super Squad, it made comparisons between them much easier.

It was clear from the start that this was going to be tight race, with Jessie Harrison taking the lead on Stage 9, stretching long legs and swinging her arms to gain momentum as she sprinted down the range. Movement from Rebecca Jones was more subdued, keeping the gun up high up in front of her face and only taking her weak-hand off the gun to start the movement before re-acquiring her grip and punching the gun out toward the next set of targets.

This was a trend that would continue throughout the match, Harrison using her athleticism to stretch and stride into position, Jones using smaller steps and precise movement. Both styles suit their respective owners perfectly and that was reflected in the scores.

After taking on the ‘House’ stage, Rebecca had opened up a slim nine point lead on Jessie and Athena Lee, with Kaci Cochran and Kay Miculek just behind and Megan Francisco trailing the leader by twenty. The infamous bridge beckoned next, with a short schedule on the first day the Super Squad had only three stages and it ended with a game changer. That wide-moving stance of Jessie benefited her movement across the bridge and allowed her to go one for one on the tiny plates finishing four seconds faster than Rebecca who seemed less than thrilled with her own performance. The first day went to Jessie by two points over Rebecca with Athena just eight points back in third.

I asked Rebecca about her preparation for Nationals.

Because I work a full time job, I don't have a set training regimen. I usually have a lot of short practices in the evenings after work and spend longer days on weekends. Todd and I set up stages, work with props, and include plenty of partial targets. I also find that shooting matches is the best form of practice so I attend as many local matches as possible on weekends. I tend to start incorporating more dry-firing as big matches like the Nationals approach.”, Rebecca said.

Eight stages beckoned on the second day of shooting and the marathon started on Stage 12. Rebecca edged into a single point lead and then lost it after suffering her only miss of the entire match, giving Jessie a seventeen point lead. At the end of Stage 16 with temperatures over 100F, Rebecca was back in the lead by a slender two point margin. Jessie took it back over the next two stages and then lost it again after Rebecca had a great run on Stage 19, ‘Road Trip’ to finish the arduous day with an eight point lead over Harrison.
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I asked Jessie if watching other shooters affected her performances at all.

Being the next shooter behind Rebecca, and seeing her shoot each stage right before I step to the line, didn't affect me in a negative way at all. If anything, it motivated me to do well myself!”, Jessie said, “I didn't try to push on any stage, I just tried to do my best each time I stepped to the line, and shoot within my capabilities. Rebecca is an amazing competitor, so if I had to follow someone from stage to stage, it couldn't have been a better pick!



Meanwhile, Megan Francisco was locked in a tight battle with Kaci Cochran as third and fourth place changed multiple times, with Kaci finishing the day just three points ahead of the 2009 Champion.
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Too many misses and no-shoots dropped Lee more than sixty points behind Jones, while Kay ended in fifth place with a thirty-four point deficit to fourth place Megan Francisco and appeared to be out of the running for a place on the podium.
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The third day, and Miculek was on a charge! Taking a win on Stage 20, ‘Double Cross’ she followed with a series of solid performances finishing the day still in fifth place but with just a three point deficit. She had pulled herself back into contention.

I asked Kay about her performance.

Kay said, “I can't say that I pushed harder on any particular stage. I just tried to stay aggressive throughout the match, as I am fully aware that my times are often 5% to 10% off the pace, especially on the longer field courses. I made my biggest gain of the day on Stage 20 simply because I chose a more efficient way of shooting it. The other gains resulted from unspectacular, but solid performances on a couple of short stages including the Virginia Count stage, where other competitors faltered.
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Jessie took the first two stages from Rebecca, but the rest of the day belonged to Jones. Showing remarkable consistency she increased her lead on Stages 2 & 3, dropped back a couple of points on Stage 4, then blasted Harrison by three seconds to take a whopping nineteen points on Stage 5 and finish the day with a twenty-five point lead.

I asked Rebecca if she was checking the scores throughout the match.

Each day is a new day and analyzing my scores is of no benefit to me.”, Rebecca said. ”I always strive to shoot my same game in a consistent fashion, no matter where I stand against anyone else. I check for accuracy at the end of the match, but that's it.” 

Just three stages on the final day, just three opportunities for Kay Miculek to get on the podium and just three chances for Jessie to claw back a twenty-five point lead. One of them would be successful, and it was Kay. As Megan and Kaci battled it out the pressure was starting to show. The battle began on Stage 6 which started with a static target, two poppers and a fast clam-shell. There was time to shoot both poppers before getting the clam-shell, provided that the shooter was fast enough. But Cochran was too fast, after hitting both poppers she appeared to shoot the no-shoot part of the clam-shell before it had dropped down earning her a miss/no-shoot combination. Megan fared worse; Three misses and a no-shoot ended her chances of taking back the title.

The experienced Miculek never let the pressure get to her and another day of solid shooting allowed her to overtake both Kaci and Megan to take third place.

It is performances like this that has kept Miculek on the US Ladies Team for so many World Championships.

It was a tremendous victory for Rebecca as she out-shot Jessie on every stage of the final day, even beating her mentor Todd Jarrett on Stage 6 by half of a point. Barring a single miss on the second day, it was a flawless performance by Jones who is rapidly becoming a dominant force in practical shooting, her dedication and performances are a joy to watch.

Rebecca’s minimalist movement around the stage is a marked contrast to Jessie who uses a combination of upper and lower body strength to power herself around a course. Jones seems to move effortlessly from one position to another with that gun held up high and ready to shoot.

She makes it look so easy, and that is the sign of a great competitor.

Rebecca has dedicated her 2011 shooting season, and her Nationals victory to her good friend, John Benton who is battling cancer. He gave her his gun and told her, “Go win Nationals with it”..... Mission Accomplished.

LIMITED-10 DIVISION

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Injuries are a curse in any sport, and getting one in a World Shoot year is worse. ‘Top Shot’ contestant Maggie Reese arrived at the range with a knee-brace on her left leg due to an ACL, and her right leg was taped up after she suffered from a sprain overcompensating for the other injury. This lack of mobility seemed to restrict her movement a little while shooting.

In preparation of the forthcoming World Championship, Maggie had elected to compete using a Sphinx 9mm. She is shooting Minor and lowering the hammer to give her a first double-action shot, per Production division rules. This is clearly a smart move for Reese as it gives her some excellent range practice with her World Shoot gun and may give her an edge in the Production match to follow. After the trip to Rhodes, there is some surgery in the winter to hopefully repair her knee and return Maggie to form.

Also preparing for the World Shoot was Lisa Munson, who is focusing entirely on the iron-sighted divisions as she gets ready to compete in IPSC Standard team in Greece.

Just three stages on the first day of shooting and Randi Rogers of Team Glock tore it up on Stage 9. A fourteen point lead over Munson was achieved with a more aggressive style of shooting than we typically see from Rogers.

I asked Randi about the changes in her shooting style;

I have really been focusing on improving my movement this year.“ Randi said, ”Especially the last few weeks I have been trying to keep my weight on my toes, leaning forward harder and trying to be more aggressive.
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A few gun problems plagued team-mate, Tori Nonaka on the first couple of stages. A new custom trigger had been installed just before Nationals and it was not resetting consistently. After checking with the officials the purple-striped Glock was replaced with her back-up gun which seemed to work much better on the bridge stage that closed out the first day of shooting.

A long string of eight mostly small and medium stages on the second day. Despite a no-shoot on Stage 12, Rogers increased her lead over the Limited-10 squad and held onto it all the way to Stage 15 when Munson started her push. Lisa ripped up the final four stages taking a slew of points from Rogers to finish three points ahead of the 2010 Champion.

The day was full of ups and downs for Tori Nonaka, four misses and a no-shoot caused a lot of damage to her match, though it was not all gloom and doom for the young Glock shooter. Despite misses on Stages 14 & 19, she still managed to keep within four points of her more experienced competitors as a result of some blinding foot speed and split times.

Monday morning blues for Randi Rogers when a miss and a no-shoot on Stage 20 allowed Lisa Munson to increase her lead by another thirteen points. Rogers would come back hard on Stage 1 to grab back half of them from Munson. Then it was Lisa’s turn, increasing her lead back to thirty-two points over the next three stages. Munson run ended with three misses and a no-shoot that allowed Rogers to grab back some much needed points.
After two days of hit and miss performances, Tori Nonaka seemed to finally get her groove back. She beat out both Lisa Munson and team-mate Randi Rogers on Stages 2 and 3 and finished with a strong showing on the complex Stage 5 which required so many transitions for the round-restricted gun it was hard for spectators to keep track of the overall pla

An afternoon start on the final day of shooting and Lisa started the day sixteen points ahead after a back and forth match that was still up for grabs. But that changed on the first stage as Lisa got off to a great start opening up the gap by another ten points on Stage 6.

I asked Lisa and Randi if they ever checked the scores during the match.
I do check the point spread at the end of the day. I do have some strategies based on how much lead or deficit I may have during a match. Years ago I chose not to look at the scores due to self induced match pressure, but now with more experience I am able to look at the scores and to apply the needed strategy.”, Lisa said.
Randi replied, “I never check the scores. I feel like all it does it set up worry that is unnecessary. I can only shoot the sights and knowing that I am ahead or behind will not change my shooting ability I only have what I brought.
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Tori Nonaka missed a shot on the clam-shell at the start of the course but made it up by nailing the 2" of target that was left on view in less than a second, but dropped back after getting two misses on the double swinger at the end of the course. Nonaka had been distracted by an un-taped target and there was a discussion at the back of the range with several RO's and competitors about whether this constituted a re-shoot, which according to the rules it did not. Tori gracefully accepted the decision of the Range Officer, the entire incident was handled courteously by all participants.

After a short break there were two speed-shoots to finish off the match. There was little chance for Rogers to take back the lead on such small stages, but Lisa did manage to fumble a little on Stage 7, as she almost forgot to perform a reload on the 12-round course.

No issues for Randi as she beat Lisa by a couple of seconds, but Tori had the last laugh as she took another second off Randi's time after engaging the poppers right to left, so the slower right popper had more time to fall. Her enjoyment was short-lived as a ricochet from another range whacked her on the hand and required some ice to reduce the swelling.

"I'm b-a-a-a-ck", said Lisa as she accepted her trophy for the Limited-10 Championship, her first National title since winning SingleStack in 2009.

I spoke to Lisa about her match.

I was totally dedicated to shooting iron sights this season.”, Lisa said. “My most successful seasons were the ones where I was committed to one division. For the past couple of years I was shooting the World Shooting qualifiers in Open division, in order to earn a spot on the US Ladies Open team. This year was dedicated to iron sights due to my commitment to be on the US Ladies Standard team. I also recently had the prescription on my shooting glasses updated... what a huge difference it makes when you can clearly see both the front and rear sights!