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The transient nature of sport is well known, competitors rise up out of obscurity and begin to make inroads on the current leaders, overall placement begins to rise and soon sponsorship beckons and with it the funds and materials necessary to enhance their performance. Match wins follow, then major championships and soon the competitor finds themselves on top of the podium at both National and International level.

But it is transient, they will always be looking over their shoulder for the next challenger who is hungry for victory and with the skill-set to take that spot on the podium; It's a 'circle of life' kind of thing.
Shane Coley travelled this path and he along with many other Open shooters must now find themselves looking over their shoulders at young Christopher Oosthuisen, Coley's main challenger at the Hornady Area-3 Championship. Held over the first weekend in August, this match raises the bar on large difficult stages that require a lot of movement, wide transitions and a solid strategy. Many of the stages had so many options that it is unlikely that the nearly 300 competitors managed to find them all. Oosthuisen took wins on two of these stages from Coley who was in a class of his own for much of the match as Max Michel, KC Eusebio and Chris Tilley could not make it to Nebraska.

For the organizers and Range Crew the contest began on Thursday with the main match starting the next day with those hardy few who felt the need to blast through 376 rounds over fourteen stages in a single day. It was exhausting, though the temperatures kindly hovered around the low 80's the non-stop progression of running, gunning and resetting would take their toll on even the fittest contenders. If you are into cross-fit and want to test your stamina and shooting ability across some truly challenging stages then shoot the Area 3 match in one day... Perhaps next year the organizers could give a special award to the first place in each division that chooses this iron-man option ?
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I had chosen to shoot the match using a 'Production Optics' setup, a proposed division in USPSA that has been the subject of a very long-running thread on the Brian Enos forums (www.brianenos.com). The basic concept is a Production legal gun with the addition of an optic such as a slide-ride scope. Smith & Wesson and FNS already offer guns from the factory that can accommodate a small red-dot scope such as a Leupold DeltaPoint and USPSA recently added the M&P C.O.R.E. line of handguns to the Production gun list which can accommodate such scopes with the removal of a plate on top of the slide.

My own setup consists of a 9mm Springfield Armory XD(M) 5.25 with a DeltaPoint mounting plate from Springer Precision and an upgraded trigger from Powder River Precision. Everything about the gun is in compliance with Production Division rules except for the scope, this led to a lot of magazine cleaning at the Area 3 match as three and sometimes four of them ended up in the dirt at each stage. But the gun is a blast to shoot and hopefully in the not too distant future USPSA could adopt this as a provisional division; This could help to grow this segment of the market as well as providing a low-cost alternative to Open guns for those that prefer dots over those archaic iron-sighted things; And give the slide-ride scopes a true field-test in the heat of competition.

Most of the top contenders chose to shoot the two-day format over the weekend and they were spread over multiple squads which allowed many of the competitors the opportunity to shoot with some of the best in the country.

Shane Coley was dominating the stages, none more so than on Stage 8 which had an unusual way of activating four drop-turners. Eight static targets were engaged from the rear of a platform and the other eight targets were visible after opening a door, that door triggered two activating mechanisms the first just as it opened activated two drop turners on the right and when the door was pushed all the way open it triggered two more drop-turners on the left (only one of which remained visible). None of the turners were deemed to be disappearing as a small shooting box had been thoughtfully placed down range, if the targets were missed then there was the option of running to the front of the stage and shooting the three turners from the box, but it ate a huge amount of time. Coley blasted these turners right to left and then swung back to take the other four static targets; Thirty-two rounds, down four points in less than 11.5 seconds... and it left RO's John & Nancy Huspek shaking their heads in disbelief.
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Stage 8 was the best stage for Lisa Munson who shot it on Sunday on her way to winning the Ladies Open title. Munson had a tougher competition than Coley as she was locked in a tight race with USA Teammate Athena Lee that left them separated by less than a point after the first day. Lisa's consistency over the final five stages on Sunday allowed her to open up a forty point lead on Athena who suffered from a couple of magazine issues. No doubt these equipment problems will be rectified before the US Nationals in September. Everything worked flawlessly for Athena on Stage 11, her last run of the match.

Stage 11 was an imaginative play on the Hornady logo; Hornady is the main match sponsor of the Area 3 Championship and their logo was placed at the start and end of the stage with a shooting area that was made of a large letter 'H' laid out on the ground. Imagine the shadow cast by a letter 'H' and you will get an idea of the layout. Barrels were placed inside and outside the area to limit the view of the sixteen targets, the final four of which had to be shot beneath the crossbar of the downrange logo. The trick was to move your feet at the same speed as the gun otherwise it was easy to overstep and miss the targets.

It was a win for Christopher Oosthuisen here as he blasted half a second from Shane Coley's time, and Athena was not much further back from that with terrific hits and a time that was less than a third of a second behind Shane. When Athena turns on the heat it's an amazing thing to watch, she will need that level of competitiveness in October at the IPSC World Shoot when she tries for a record-breaking third World Champion title.
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Lisa and Athena were joined on their squad by Heidi Kempin who finished in third place in Open along with Gabby Franco and Debbie Keehart, both shooting in Limited. The Ladies Limited match was a three-way battle between Carina Randolph, TD Roe and Tori Nonaka. All three were shooting on different stages which left Glock's Tori Nonaka constantly checking their uploaded scores to determine exactly what was needed on each stage to get ahead of them both.

Nonaka excelled on the all steel stage with a top seven finish. Thirty-two poppers of varying sizes stretched out down the full length of the berm required a lot of movement and a row of small poppers at the end blended in nicely with the backstop, some targets could be shot on the move but there was a tendency to carpet-bomb the poppers with excessive bullets if your aim was not true. Nonaka completed her entire match with only a single penalty to take the Ladies Limited title by over forty points on Carina, TD Roe finished third.
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Sara Dunivin was the only one shooting in Production on the ladies squad which left her finding unique solutions to each of the stages, it clearly did not affect her performance as she took the Ladies title convincingly from Nancy Huspek and Carrie Jamrogowicz. Like Tori, Sara had her finest run on the all steel stage finishing eighth and with consistent runs in the rest of the match Dunivin finished 11th overall behind Ben Stoeger who had dominated the competition finishing with a huge margin over Kale Garretson.

Blake Miguez owned this match in the Limited Division, winning six of the stages to open up an impressive lead over Bob Krogh. Krogh suffered from a miss and a couple of procedural errors on Stage 2 and messed up on Stage 10, a memory stage which consisted of sixteen classics targets requiring a single shot each. One target was only available from either side of the horizontal course while the others were available from multiple positions, only thirty of the Limited contenders got through this stage without at least one penalty and many suffered significantly more.

Krogh redeemed himself on the next two stages, performing particularly well on the sloping walls on Stage 12. This wall was used at last years match (and it was evil) and Sherwyn Greenfield received many requests to cut it up and get rid of it. It got cut up all right, and then both halves were used to make a 'V' on Stage 12, a sixteen shot stage with five paper targets and a couple of poppers, all three ports came into play requiring the competitor to negotiate the 'V' quickly without slipping which was easier said than done, especially first thing in the morning with a heavy dew on the steps.
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Tim Herron excelled with the 1911 beating closest rival David Palm by a whopping 170 points to take the Single Stack title. Tim shot the match on Friday which makes his score all the more impressive as he won all but three of the stages during a long hot day for a convincing win.

Each year the match organizers Sherwyn Greenfield, Chris Davies and Matt Pitel raise the bar at this competition, each year the range crew build stages that are more challenging have more options and more opportunities to excel. This match should be on everyones calendar for 2015, shoot it in two days or take the iron-man option and blast it all in a single day... go on, I dare you !

A huge thanks to the Hornady for once again sponsoring the match along with STI, NSSF and Competitive Edge Dynamics.

Division sponsors were Sig Sauer, Glock, STI, Springfield Armory, Cylinder & Slide and Viridian.