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Accuracy, Power and Speed are measured to determine match winners and crown our National Champions. However, the Ladies Production title was determined not by points scored or time accrued, but by inches, specifically the inches below the waist that Svetlana Nikolaeva was wearing her belt.

Wearing a mini-skirt, Svetlana had positioned her belt in accordance with the IPSC rule-set that permits women competitors to wear the holster at the widest point of their hips, allowing them more convenient access to guns and magazines. But under USPSA rules the belt must be worn at ‘waist’ level in both Production and Single Stack Divisions.

LIMITED, PRODUCTION & REVOLVER

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Her unfamiliarity with this rule cost Svetlana the High Overall Lady award at the 2012 back to back Handgun Nationals. None of the other women shooting on the squad noticed the problem and neither did some of the RO’s, otherwise it could have been corrected before the first stage.

I asked Randi Rogers about this issue:

“I did not know that her belt position was illegal. I was made aware of it by Troy the Range Master before we shot on the third day. It was a pleasure to shoot with her and I am sorry she was bumped.”, said Randi.

Randi, USPSA’s own ‘Miss Congeniality’, gracefully acknowledged Svetlana’s victory in her acceptance speech on the final day of the competition.

This years Nationals was different from previous years due to the abolition of the women’s super squads, this left the top shooters spread over multiple stages shooting in varying conditions each day, determining who was leading the contest at the end of each session was impossible.

Svetlana, Jessie, Randi and Tori had managed to shoot together in Squad #35 and started their match on Stage 16, ‘The Wailing Wall’. And it was not a very auspicious start for Jessie Duff, as she tagged a couple of No-Shoots on the double clam-shells at the end of the course in a time that was four seconds slower than Lisa Munson.

“I think the stages this year, were easier from a glance. Once you got a good look at them, or had a chance to time some of the moving targets, is when the difficulty level set in. Some of the moving targets were extremely fast, and with all the no shoots present, it made for some nerve-wracking stages!”, Jessie said.
All of the clam-shell targets at this match had one thing in common, they only left a narrow 2” high target to engage after activation. Knowing where the sights were set was vital in order to avoid some significant penalties in this match. Munson was winning on this stage until the final day when Carina Burns Randolph narrowly edged her out. Maggie Reese took the honors in the Production race, despite still being constrained by a knee brace she blasted through the stage over two seconds faster than Randi Rogers. I asked Lisa Munson what she thought of the stages this year;

Lisa replied, “I thought this years stages seemed a bit more challenging.  I've certainly never seen as many Virginia Count stages in a Nationals match.”
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Shooting along with squad #35 was Nationals rookie, Amanda Zimcosky who despite facing some very challenging stages seemed to be having the time of her life.

Absent from the US Nationals was S&W’s Team Captain, Julie Golob who announced just before the event that she is pregnant with her second child, wisely unwilling to expose her unborn baby to the load noise of practical shooting along with the risk of lead exposure, Julie opted out of the competition and we wish Julie and her husband all the best with the latest edition to the Golob clan.
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There were seven stages on the first day, and a backlog on Stages 13 & 14 had already become critical. With two stages on a single berm, one of them consisting of two strings, the stages were running behind almost from the beginning. As the sun touched the top of the mountains the berms cast long shadows across the targets and it was a race against time to complete them before darkness fell. The Range Crew gave the squad the option of shooting in the evening or finishing the stages the next day, half the squad shot stages 13 & 14 and returned early next morning to finish their final scheduled stage (15).

The remainder of Squad #35 had to make up three stages the following day.
Opting to shoot in the fading light worked out well for Tori Nonaka and Randi Rogers as they both recorded their highest place stage finishes on the Stage 13, ‘Go Get Em’. The stage was running at around fifteen seconds for the top ladies so it was all about the accuracy thanks to a couple of fast swingers and some tight no-shoots. Jessie remarked, “It’s always a troubling thought, thinking your going to lose light and you still have a few stages to shoot. Thankfully the match director gave us the opportunity to come back and shoot in the morning, and the RO’s stayed out on the range as long as there were people willing to shoot.”

Leaving the range in the fading light they would have to return an hour earlier in the morning to complete Stage 15 and close out the first day of their schedule.
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While Squad #35 was polishing off their previous day’s stages, Athena Lee was getting ready to tackle Stage 5 along with fellow TopShot contender Gabby Franco. Athena snagged a wait-list slot for the match and was shooting her Limited LimCat that she first used at the DoubleTap match earlier in the year. Franco was shooting in Production Division and this match required some fast learning for the Olympian as this was her first USPSA Nationals.

An arching pathway led to targets on both the left and right along with a string of four poppers at the end, one of which triggered a fast swinger while another activated a clam-shell. Run too fast around that path and it was easy to overrun the targets, the final shooting position needed some careful footwork to line up the narrow aperture to snag the poppers before engaging the moving targets. Few were able to get the clam-shell before it closed, requiring some careful aiming.
Stages were again running late as the morning squads closed out the second day of the match, leaving some of the range crew without a lunch-break, runners were dispatched to bring them some food from the vendor tent while they continued to run the stages for the afternoon squads. On the final day of the LPR Nationals, Randi, Tori, Jessie and Svetlana took on Stages 7-11, by this time Svetlana knew she was out of the running in the Production match due to the belt issue putting Randi firmly in the lead, but with only five stages today the match was far from decided in the Limited Division.

After running their ammo through the chronograph, Stage 7 & 8 beckoned, these two stages shared a single berm, but backlogs were at a minimum as the second of them was a straight up virginia count speed shoot that zipped along without a hitch.

A little more fun was to be had on Stage 7, a mirror image stage it consisted of a static target, a small popper hiding behind a larger one that activated a swinger, the same setup on the left and right. Opening the central door revealed two static targets and two more devilish clam-shells. The fastest times came from engaging each of the two sides, large popper, static, swinger, then back to claim the small popper, repeat on the other side then open the door and try to snag the left clam-shell before the right-hand one then whack the two static targets. No-shoot penalties were applied to many competitors who tried to outshoot the clam-shells or hit that tiny 2” sliver of target.
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Lisa Munson finished 23rd overall on this stage on a smoothly executed run that gave her some much needed points against both Jessie and Tori Nonaka who both suffered from multiple no-shoots on this stage. Despite a single miss Randi was able to take this run from both Maggie Reese and Sara Dunivin who were shooting on a different squad.

The final stage for Randi, Jessie, Tori and Svetlana was Stage 11, consisting of two strings and three shooting boxes it incorporated strong and weak-hand strings against three pairs of targets, each pair behind a single no-shoot. It was a tricky stage to shoot well, and for the second time in the match the range conditions became an issue for this squad.

As the sun set behind the mountains the lighting on the stage became a serious issue as one competitor to the next was shooting in more extreme conditions. Tori was scheduled to be last to the line just after Stephen Pellicori. As she was battling for a top three finish Stephen graciously offered to go after her so she would be able to shoot a few minutes earlier. It may not sound like much, but the light was dropping so rapidly that every minute counted. Running at least three seconds slower than Jessie and Lisa, Nonaka’s misery was compounded with two misses and a no-shoot penalty, it was the price to pay for having to shoot in such dismal conditions.
I spoke to Jessie Duff about the final stage;

“I don’t feel that I was affected by the lighting conditions, thankfully, but I think it was just luck of the draw, that I was near the top of the shooting order for the last stages of the day. It could have just as easily been me shooting in the dark!’, she explained. It was past 6:30pm when the squad finally left the range, the awards ceremony started thirty minutes later at the SunCoast Hotel and some of the squad arrived late having little turn-around time to drop off guns and get changed. By the time Randi, Jessie, Tori et al had arrived the one hour deadline to correct scores had already been announced. I asked Randi about the late finishes for the Limited/Production match;

“The lighting was a serious issue for many of the shooters.”, said Randi. “I gambled on the first day and shot a couple of stages after the sun went down. [My] Stage 11 score was incorrect and I spoke to match staff at the awards ceremony but I guess it didn't get changed. I usually check scores after the match but never during.”

For Jessie Duff, Randi Rogers and Annette Aysen it was another night to remember as they were crowned Champions of the Limited, Production & Revolver Nationals. For Jessie it was the fifth consecutive win in the Limited Division, I asked her to describe her string of victories; “One victory has never been the same as the last, and I am always grateful for each and every one. They are all unique in their own way, and are so meaningful for one reason or another. Plus, now that I’m counting them, I definitely don’t want to break the streak!”, Jessie exclaimed.

OPEN & L-10

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In addition to determining USPSA’s National Champions, this year’s competition also served as qualifiers for Team selection for the IPSC World Championship to be held in Florida in 2014. The first match in the series was the US-IPSC Nationals held the month before and two more qualifiers are scheduled for 2013.

Athena Lee’s quest for a coveted place on the US Team suffered a setback when her rounds failed to make major. Fortunately she had only shot Stage 11, ‘Short Sprint Standards’ before discovering that her Montana Golds factored at 164.7, just 2.5 fps less than required. A change in tactics is required when this happens as the focus leans more on points than on time. Following the long delays at the Limited, Production & Revolver Nationals, Range Master Troy McManus limited the second match to 12 shooters per squad and moved Stage 14 to its own berm. These changes resulted in a much smoother match that ran right on schedule for the majority of the competitors and allowed the Range Crew some much needed rest at lunch time.
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Athena was squadded with the 2010 Champion Megan Francisco, and following Athena’s failure at the chronograph they headed off to Stages 7 & 8. From the LPR Nationals, Stage 7 had only some minor changes, namely the addition of a couple of no-shoots over the static targets and both Megan and Athena managed to hit a no-shoot each. Athena shooting much more conservatively was over 2.5 seconds slower.

Athena bounced back on Stage 9, ‘Back it up and hit it’, getting the same hits as Megan she blasted three seconds off Francisco’s time to pull herself back into the competition.

Over on the other side of the range, Lisa Munson was starting her match on the tricky Stage 13, ‘Get em faster’. With seventeen rounds this stage had a awkward start position standing outside of the shooting box and then step in and shoot around a wall, a couple of fast swingers were only visible from a small port inside the shooting area. It was Lisa’s best stage but her time was overtaken that afternoon when Kaci Cochran stormed through the stage a full second faster.

Kaci was on a roll the first day of the match, with only single penalty all afternoon she also snagged a top twelve finish on Stage 18, ‘Down the middle’ an eight shot speed-shoot with four partial targets.

Shooting at the same time as Cochran were Jessie, Tori, Maggie and Randi who were able to join up in Squad #23 while spread over three other squads were Lisa Munson, Athena Lee, Megan Francisco, Valerie Levanza, Svetlana Nikolaeva and Debbie Keehart. Once again the lack of women’s super squads severely limited the available coverage and left the contenders unable to gauge their performance against their rivals.

“I was disappointed in not getting to shoot with all the ladies.”, Randi said “It is nice to shoot with family and coaches but it really tests the shooters to shoot with their direct competitors. I also think it is better to treat the top ladies like the top men.”

Jessie agreed, “It’s troubling to think that there is an issue with the women’s super squad, but unfortunately, it is something we face. When I started shooting, that was my goal, to be at a level to earn a spot with the top ladies. I hate to think that it will no longer be available for up and coming shooters, or those of us who have worked hard to get there.”
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Squad #23’s match started on a couple of field stages numbered five and six. With an emphasis on accuracy Jessie Duff was able to get off to a solid start, though she was a little slower on Stage 6 and managed to snag her only ‘D’ hit of the day.

“After the first day of the open match, I realized I had a chance to shoot a clean match.”, Jessie said. “Every shooter wants to be able to walk away and say they gave it all they had. I knew that if I was able to do that, then I would have no regrets of how the results turned out.”

Randi was also off to a good start; The alterations to the stages from the first match were only minor and this helped those who had taken part in the first competition.

“For me shooting the stages in the first match helped a lot in the second. Knowing the timing of the movers was helpful and knowing what targets to watch out for was helpful. However when you shoot the stages twice you have to be careful not to get lazy and not think about them. It is easy to take it for granted and you don't want to forget things.”, said Randi.

Tori Nonaka seemed to struggle on the first couple of stages, first with a no-shoot on Stage 5 then a bad run on the next stage that left her ten seconds behind Rogers. Things picked up a little on Stage 1 as she finished a second faster than Svetlana Nikolaeva, but as good as that was, Stage 2 was even better; Sweeping though the stage over half a second faster than Randi she dropped only six points to snag a top 30 finish. When Nonaka hits her groove her shooting is a delight to watch, its only a matter of time before she is able to perform at this level throughout the entire match and the victories will follow.
A morning start on Day two and what a difference the daylight makes. The last time that Randi, Tori and Jessie had shot Stage 11 the daylight was fading rapidly. Randi took a top twelve finish on this difficult standards stage and finished nearly a full second faster than Jessie who was shooting Open !

For Jessie, it was another clean day, as she cleaned up on Stage 7 beating out Shane Coley in the process and another clean run on the tight Stage 8, edging out both Kaci Cochran and Max Michel Jr ! She dropped a few points on the final stage of the day, the circular Stage 10 where she managed her only ‘D’ hits of the day, three of them.
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As the second day came to a close it was impossible to determine who was leading the match, as the contenders were all in different areas, of the six stages that both Kaci and Jessie had shot, Jessie had a slight thirteen point lead while Lisa Munson was another 40 points further back. With the tight shots in this contest there was no guarantee that a major upset could be avoided but Kaci only had five stages on the final day while Jessie had six.

In the Limited-10 match, Randi was over twenty points ahead of Svetlana with Tori another twenty-six further behind.

Back with squad #23 and Maggie Reese had an interesting method of shooting Stage 17, ‘Oak Street’ which left three small poppers through a very low port. Showing a casual disregard for her still injured knee she threw out her left leg and dropped onto her rear to blast the three mini-poppers. Quite a few shooters walked away from this stage with a dirty, dust-covered butt. Tori had another great run on Stage 14, a double string stage with some tight no-shoots, she took the stage from Randi and Svetlana with a top 26 finish.

The Open match belonged to Jessie Duff who continued to shoot stage after stage with a smooth confident style that emphasized accuracy. As she started her final stage her focus remained absolute and as she finished her run, she had shot it clean. Jessie said. “Throughout the match I had no idea how any of the other ladies were shooting, but after I finished my last stage I felt a victory within myself, that didn’t have anything to do with the results. I only prayed that it would be enough, but knew that if it wasn’t, that I gave it all I had.”

For Jessie this was her first Open title. Later at the awards ceremony, barely holding back the tears she thanked God, her family and her sponsors. I asked Jessie how this victory compared to her Limited win? “It’s difficult to make a distinction between the two, just because they are very different disciplines. With this being my first Open title, it does have a special meaning, because I’ve put a lot of hard work and training into it, and am competing against the best ladies in the world. But that’s not to make light of the Limited titles, since I compete against the same talented ladies.”, Jessie said.

Randi snagged her own back-to-back Championship win, finishing 114 points ahead of Svetlana Nikolaeva, Tori Nonaka was third overall and first in ‘B’ class.

With the Nationals so late in the year it almost marks the end of the shooting season and I asked the top ladies what their plans were for 2013? With her new position at Comp-Tac Randi has access to multiple guns that are used to custom-fit Comp-Tac’s holsters. Randi said, “I am thinking of trying some new pistols for next year. Not having to shoot a particular gun is new for me and I would like to try some other guns.”

Lisa explained her plans regarding the World Shoot selection process, “I currently have scores posted for both Open and Standard Division. I am planning on making my decision next year on which one to focus on. I will be competing at Area 4, Area 2, and the 2013 Australasian in Open Division. Depending on how I finish at these matches will help me determine which way to go.”

With new guns from Taurus on the way, Jessie is looking to expand her competitions in the coming year; “For 2013 I would like to try and shoot more area matches, particularly some that I haven’t shot yet. I also plan to have at least one international match, along with shooting the Single Stack Nationals for the first year!”, Jessie said.