By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
CAMP PERRY, Ohio – “Civilian teams are not supposed to win the Gold Cup,” said Christopher “Neil” Roberts, smiling and having lighthearted conversation with the other members of his North Carolina Rifle and Pistol Association team – all still in shock at what they had just accomplished earlier that day.
He was referring to the award given to the Overall Scoring team in the National Trophy Team (NTT) Match fired during the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) 2019 National Trophy Pistol Matches. The NTT is a prestigious event, won every year since 1920 by skillful military teams – that is, until this year.
Breaking the near 100-year history of the event, Roberts, along with teammates Cecil Rhodes, Jon Shue and Tom Willats, claimed the overall spot and the accompanying Gold Cup after outshooting both civilian and military assembled teams, with a combined score of 1109-30x.
“It was shocking,” said Willats, 56, of Raleigh. “It was really exciting.”
It was only just prior to the National Matches that they had discussed putting together a team for Camp Perry. The men have been acquainted with each other through competition for years, especially from the Eastern CMP Travel Games held annually at Camp Butner in North Carolina, where Shue and Willats have won the Pistol Team Match together in the past.
Regulars at the National Matches for over 20 years now, the men thought it would be fun to assemble a North Carolina team to fire in the NTT Match – and the melded chemistry of the group turned out to be more powerful than they had realized.
“We weren’t even sure who was going to be shooting until we were starting the match,” Roberts, 46, of Charlotte, joked. “But it worked out.”
It was his first time shooting the pistol team match at Camp Perry, serving as the “new shooter” (that is, new to the match) that is required for the NTT. Finally set with their team, the crew came into the match with only a goal of beating the other state association team, certainly not the mindset of taking home the ultimate prize.
“We were hoping to win the civilian part, the Oglethorpe Cup, then as we got to talking, we thought, ‘We might be in this thing…’” Roberts explained with a hearty laugh.
And, of course they were in it. The team had the talent, with all four members having earned Distinguished Service Pistol Badges years ago and having marksmen who had competed in the NTT before, aware of its unique challenges.
Rhodes, 62, of Clayton, who has been coming to Camp Perry for the last 22 years, had only fired in the team match once before and was let down by its outcome. This year, he picked the right time to try it again and credits his team for giving him a second chance.
“These guys carried me all the way. It was actually my worst match of the day, but these guys shot so well that it actually pushed us over the top, so it was really great,” he said with a smile. “I’m grateful to Jon for letting me shoot again. I had fun.”
Having now reminded the competitive shooting community that anything really is possible on the sacred grounds of Camp Perry, the guys think more civilian teams will sign up for the NTT in the future, and the men from the Tarheel State will be ready for them – already set on defending their title at next year’s event with fresh recruits in the works.
In other National Pistol events, team member Jon Shue, 38, not only took home the Gold Cup Trophy and the Oglethorpe Trophy (the team’s original aspiration), but also a slew of other hardware for his individual performances throughout the National Matches, including the Military Police Corps Trophy as the highest scoring individual in the NTT.
In addition to that, he was the overall winner in the CMP EIC Pistol Match and reached another first and personal achievement he’s been after for years – the overall win in the National Trophy Individual (NTI) event, with a Camp Perry personal best score of 292-16x. For his win, he received the General Custer Trophy.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you shoot for it, shoot for it, shoot for it, and then one day you shoot your personal best. And that’s what happened.”
Shue also took home the Citizen Military Pistol Trophy as the High Civilian in the NTI and the Anheuser Busch Trophy as the High Civilian in the NTI-NTT Aggregate.
Other outstanding performances during the National Trophy Pistol Matches included SFC Adam Sokolowski, 40, of the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), who fired a score of 388-13 for the overall win in the President’s Pistol event.
William Thompson, 67, of El Paso, TX, won the M9 EIC Pistol Match fired during the Small Arms Firing School by just one point – collecting a score of 261-3x.
Sam Kwon, 19, of New York, NY, nearly swept the Junior events, claiming the .22 Rimfire Pistol, the President’s Pistol Match (for the second time) and received the G.P. Perry DeFino Trophy for his win in the Junior Individual Match for the fourth time in his career.
He also teamed up with the Overall Junior Pistol competitor of the matches, Heather Powers, 19, of West Falls, NY, in the Junior Team event to earn the top spot for the second year with a score of 545-15x.
Devin LaCross, 17, of Jackson, NJ, topped the CMP EIC Service Pistol Junior competitors, with a score of 281-4x.
For a complete list of results of the National Trophy Pistolhttps://ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&task=edit&match=18033.
Photos can be found on the CMP Zenfolio page at https://cmp1.zenfolio.com/f430049319.