By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
CAMP PERRY, OH – At first glance, it seemed like any other final – with the top competitors vying to be the last standing on the firing line. But once it commenced, blaring music, dancing crowd members and the appearance of Spiderman quickly showed it was anything but any other final.
At the 2015 Camp Perry Open, the Top 18 male and female rifle competitors and the Top 18 overall pistol competitors were distinguished from the day’s scores on January 17 and chosen as the lucky few who would fire in the long-awaited Super Finals – the most popular finals event of the year. The rifle competitors assembled on one side of the air range, while the pistol competitors gathered on the opposite side.
On the firing line, the Final began with a period of sighters, followed by 10 record shots – with each competitor starting with a score of zero. When the shots were complete, the Top 8 male and female rifle competitors and the Top 10 overall pistol competitors moved on to the next round.
As the pressure of the finals continued to build, the devastatingly distracting sounds of cow bells, air horns, party blowers, hecklers, cheering fans and rattling metal chairs echoed in the competitors’ ears – not between each shot series, but as each shot was fired. Even spectators in the check-in area of the new Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center – on the opposite side of the facility – could hear the racket spilling out from the closed doors of the range.
DJ Katie (CMP program coordinator Katie Harrington) boomed tracks over the range loudspeakers as the finalists attempted to concentrate on their shots. New-age popular songs like “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, “Stolen Dance” by Milky Chance and “Animals” by Maroon 5 mixed with timeless classics, such as “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.
As the chorus to “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond began to play, the entire range joined in as the words “Sweeeeet Caroline” resonated from the rafters. For the Ohio State fans, the rock song made popular by Ohio State’s marching band, “Hang On Sloopy,” gave a nod to the football team’s recent National Championship title win.
In the crowd, spectators danced in the stands, wore masks, waved pom poms and swayed foam fingers. Some competitors even joined in on the fun – one wearing a Spiderman outfit and another wearing a “minion” hat from the movie “Despicable Me.” One competitor even busted out his best air guitar moves during the competition, with his rifle pointed downrange.
Back on the firing line, the remaining competitors fired two, three-shot series as the music played and distractions ensued. At the end of each series, two rifle and one pistol competitor were eliminated. Once the three-shot series were over, single shot eliminations followed until only two remained on each side of the range.
The final battle was between junior Samantha Peterson and Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) member George Norton in rifle and AMU members James Henderson and Greg Markowski in pistol.
“This is it. This is for all the marbles,” said CMP program coordinator Brad Donoho, who commentated for the event.
As the final marksmen loaded their pellets and aimed downrange, the crowd cheered so loud that Sia’s “Chandelier” playing overhead couldn’t be heard.
With the last shots fired, the room became silent as the scores displayed on the monitors above.
In rifle: Peterson 9.6, Norton 9.9
In pistol: Markowski 8.9, Henderson 10.6
Henderson and Norton managed to overcome the noise, disruptions and other elements of the Super Final that challenges shooters and entices them to come back for more year after year.
Norton explained the key to winning the difficult and entertaining event, saying, “You have to be able to drown out the hundreds of people who are really enjoying trying to tear us apart. And have fun. I had fun, and I think that’s what got me through it. It’s like the funnest thing you’ll ever do in shooting, probably. I just really enjoyed it.”
He went on to say, “I think this event is what sets the Camp Perry Open apart. There’s nothing else like it out there anywhere, especially with the way they eliminate people. It doesn’t matter if I had a really good string, because it all goes back to zero. That sort of trains you up for doing international style finals.”
After his big win, the stunned Super Final champion took out his phone and eagerly announced the news.
“I sent a text to my wife and I was like, ‘I can’t believe I won.’ Because it was nuts!”
To see photos from the Super Final, visit the CMP Zenfolio page at cmp1.zenfolio.com.