State Director Info
Smallbore Junior Casey Hollenbeck gives Highpower a Shot at Camp Perry
By Sheri Trusty, CMP Feature Writer
Three weeks before the 2023 National Matches, Casey Hollenbeck made the switch from smallbore to highpower shooting. He practiced only three times in the new discipline, and yet he cleaned the first three stages of the M16 EIC Match and ended with a second-place finish.
The 17-year-old from Marathon, Wisconsin, who was shooting with the Wisconsin Junior Rifle Team, said his years of smallbore put him in a good place entering the match.
“I just started shooting highpower three weeks ago, but I was excited. With shooting smallbore, I had a lot of the good fundamentals down,” he said. “I just had to learn a few things.”
He also needed the tools to compete. Hollenbeck walked into Camp Perry with virtually no highpower gear but a tremendous amount of support.
“Since I just started in highpower, I didn’t have equipment at all. I started with my smallbore jacket and my glove. That’s it,” he said. “My smallbore coach, Randy Gregory, let me use his shooting cart, shooting box, mat and spotting scope. While I was here, I bought a highpower jacket. My highpower coach, Spencer McGowan, let me use his gun.”
Hollenbeck is grateful for all the support that brought him to his first highpower match.
“I want to thank Randy and Spencer, all the other coaches, and the Wisconsin Junior Rifle Team,” he said.
Hollenbeck made the last-minute switch to highpower by the request of McGowan.
“I shot smallbore for five or six years, and Spencer mentioned needing people to shoot highpower. Randy said he had just the guy,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck said he was likely chosen because of his commitment to the sport.
“He recommended me because he knows I like shooting, and it would pique my interest,” he said.
As McGowan trained Hollenbeck in highpower, he built on Hollenbeck’s already strong shooting skills.
“Most of the stuff I learned in smallbore transferred over, things like breathing, taking your time between shots, and making sure I’m taking a good shot. I had three practices before coming to Camp Perry, basically to get my zeros down,” Hollenbeck said. “It’s a lot of the same fundamentals – just a bit quicker pace. It’s a lot of little things, but it’s pretty much the same.”
Those skills played out well in the M16 EIC Match.
“I cleaned the first three stages. I was excited about that. I didn’t know my scores were that good until somebody started telling me,” he said. “I came in second overall. I lost by one point. I think I lost that point in standing. I shot an eight.”
Hollenbeck said he believes the mistake developed in the few, brief moments he forgot his training.
“My coaches taught me to breath in between each shot and take my time. I didn’t do that today, and my score was not as good. Then I changed back, and I shot better,” he said.
Most of the time, Hollenbeck naturally shoots from a place of seasoned experience. He walks into a match with a mind clear of everything but the next shot.
“When I’m shooting, I forget the score and who I’m competing against, and I focus on shooting,” he said. “I don’t think about the other people. I just shoot.”
Competing at Camp Perry manifested into a highpower learning experience for Hollenbeck.
“There was a lot of wind during the match, and it was pushing me around in standing. I was having a lot of trouble with that. The wind switched around a lot, but I’m learning how to watch for that. This has been a big learning experience,” he said. “I’ve learned a whole bunch just shooting here. Random people helped me and gave me tips. You can ask almost anybody a question, and they’ll answer it truthfully.”
Hollenbeck enjoyed his first competition at Camp Perry.
“I love it here. This is awesome,” he said. “I’ll come back next year. I like how everyone is always willing to help.”
Hollenbeck stumbled into marksmanship in junior high when he “was looking for something to do,” he said. He shoots smallbore and trap with the Medford Rifle Club.
“The Medford Rifle Club has a lot of people. It’s a good size club,” he said. ““I just started trap this year. A couple of friends talked me into it. I like it.”
After he graduates high school, Hollenbeck plans to learn welding, and he has a future goal of becoming a fabricator.
“But I’ll shoot as long as I can,” he said.
He hopes other teens will shoot as well.
“I would encourage them to try it. It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s definitely different from other sports. Rather than physically challenging, it’s mentally challenging. People don’t realize how much you think about your bad shots and your good shots. There are lows and highs, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Find a local CMP affiliated club by visiting the CMP website at https://thecmp.org/clubs/search-clubs/.
Junior Thomas McGowan Claims Junior & Civilian Rifle Awards
By Sheri Trusty, CMP Feature Writer
Thomas McGowan has a passion for shooting, but he’s just as happy being behind the scenes pushing others to win. That doesn’t mean he loosens the slack on his competitive drive in a match. His performance at this year’s National Matches proves he’s out for the win, whether his own or another marksman’s.
Eighteen-year-old McGowan, who traveled from his home in Hortonville, Wisconsin, to Camp Perry, was High Junior in the President’s and National Trophy Individual Match. He became the second Junior to win the Alice Bull Trophy and was only eight Xs short of tying the national record of 793-38X set by Justin Utley in 2018. McGowan is a member of the Wisconsin Junior Rifle Team, whose top team won the Minuteman Trophy during the six-man National Trophy Team Match.
“It was the second year we won that. We were the top Junior team,” he said.
McGowan and his sister, 15-year-old Kacie, won the National Trophy Junior Team Match.
“It was my third time winning this, but it was the first time Kacie and I shot together,” McGowan said.
McGowan was top Junior in the 2400 Aggregate, and he coached and competed in the four-man team match, where his team earned top honors. He was High Junior, 2nd Civilian and 6th overall in the National Trophy Individual Match. He earned a spot in the shoot off in the President’s Match.
“I’ve made several shoot offs at the NRA long range matches, but this was my first time in the President’s shoot off,” he said. “The top 20 shooters shoot an additional 10 rounds at 600 yards, fired in 50 second increments.”
The shoot off was challenging, especially under Camp Perry’s windy conditions.
“The shoot off makes you focus on making quick decisions. I was nervous because this was my first time,” McGowan said. “Shooting in the wind was a great factor.”
The wind creates one of McGowan’s favorite challenges as he coaches younger marksmen.
“What I like about coaching is, I like the game of wind reading. It’s like playing a game of chess,” he said. “I get a high from shooting, but I get the same high sitting next to a shooter and reading the wind to help them win. When I hear my shooter say it’s the first time they cleaned a 600-yard string, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
The Wisconsin Junior Rifle Team pulled out multiple wins at this year’s National Matches, and McGowan attributes their strong showing to an exceptionally skilled team.
“One thing that’s different this year is the consistency of shooters on our team. It wasn’t three and three maybes or four and a couple maybes. Everyone was strong, and that’s rare in a junior team,” McGowan said. “Our coaches had a lot to do with that. Everyone was able to do well and have that drive. That’s been different in the last couple years.”
McGowan was thrilled to help his team win the Minuteman Trophy (High Junior Team) in the National Trophy Team Match. It was the reason he came to the National Matches.
“I’m here for my team. I didn’t plan to come, but I wanted to help them win. Everything I did before today was just rehearsal for the match we won today. I’m here being the best I can be for my team,” he said.
The National Matches were also practice for McGowan’s entrance onto the world stage. He recently earned a spot on the U.S. National Rifle Team, where he will shoot on its Young Eagle Rifle Team. Team trials took place in Lodi, Wisconsin.
“In the trial, you had to shoot 120 shots at 1000 yards using a Palma rifle. They judged you on elevation, basically. They focused on how tight you can shoot,” McGowan said.
He will travel with the team to the Long Range World Championships in South Africa in March, 2024.
“It will be an adventure. I’ll be over there a month,” he said.
McGowan gained his success shooting a service rifle equipped with a March scope and a Brux barrel.
“Pretty much everything else was purchased at White Oak Armament,” McGowan said. “I want to thank Brux Barrel for sponsoring me and White Oak Armament for all their support. They’ve both done a lot for the team.”
McGowan also expressed gratitude to Ken Fuhrmann, who guided McGowan into marksmanship.
“He was always a big help to me and my dad in my adventure into highpower,” McGowan said. “And I want to thank my parents, Spencer and Joan, especially in the funding department, but just for being there to get me what I need and give me a mental boost when I need it.”
McGowan plans to shoot and coach shooting for years, but this fall, he will enter Lawrence University in Wisconsin and pursue a musical career.
“I’m going to study trombone performance with a jazz emphasis in their conservancy program,” he said. “I guess that’s not a very common thing, to be a shooter and a trombone player. They are very polar opposite strengths.”
They are different, he said, but also much the same.
“I think they utilize a lot of the same skills – practice, performance, consistency. They seem to share similar mental concepts, like performing under pressure,” McGowan said.
McGowan has often been asked how he remains calm during trombone performances. His answer is simple: he’s a marksman.
“When you shoot in front of people, you have to be able to overcome that mental block and allow yourself to be the best version of yourself,” he said. “I find that works in both places.”
WI Cheddar Takes Home National Junior Trophies
By Sheri Trusty, CMP Feature Writer
Siblings Thomas and Kacie McGowan outperformed 50 other two-man teams to earn the first-place spot at the National Trophy Junior Team Match during the 2023 National Matches. Their names will be added to the prestigious Freedom’s Fire Trophy at Camp Perry.
Thomas, an experienced marksman who recently earned a spot on the U.S. National Rifle Team, provided an extra level of comfort for Kacie, who is an exceptional but less experienced competitor.
“It was a really great experience because Thomas is a really great shooter but also my brother, so it was less stressful for me. He has a calming personality,” Kacie said.
Adding their names to the Freedom’s Fire Trophy was an honor for both.
“Who doesn’t want their name on a national championship trophy?” Thomas said. “It reflects the hard work we put into it.”
Because this was the first time Kacie’s name has been inscribed on a trophy, it was a poignant match for her.
“It’s very cool, especially seeing my name next to my brother’s,” she said.
Kacie and Thomas joined their teammates Thomas Kirsten, James Lee, Anna Behnke and Casey Hollenbeck to win the Minuteman Trophy for the High Junior Team in the National Trophy Team Match. The team scored 2913-92X (out of 3000 points) and was coached by Kaleb Hall. WI Cheddar finished as the second junior in the National Trophy Infantry Team Match.
CMP Programs Chief Christie Sewell said the National Trophy Junior Team Match is a favored competition at the National Matches. It encompasses four elements: slow-fire standing and rapid-fire sitting or kneeling from standing at 200 yards, rapid-fire prone from standing at 300 yards and slow-fire prone at 600 yards.
“It’s one of the most popular because it’s teams that compete. There are 3,500 CMP shooting clubs across the U.S., and the teams that come here represent those clubs and their state associations,” Sewell said.
The match is distinctive at Camp Perry for the unique camaraderie it inspires.
“What’s really neat about the match is so many people that shoot here, including military personnel and elite competitors, will help. They’ll coach the junior competitors and work in the pits,” Sewell said. “It’s really special because people want the junior competitors to have a great time. It’s pretty amazing how many people help with this match.”
The match began under sunny but windy conditions, and Sewell watched as a storm moved into Camp Perry, with strong wind developing into an impediment for the competitors. Lightning forced match officials to postpone the 300 and 600-yard competitions, but not before the wind played havoc with the competitors during the standing stage.
“The wind conditions during standing made the skilled shooters rise to the top,” Sewell said. “You really have to focus on conditions, and they powered through the wind.”
Seventeen-year-old Drake Johnson of Texas was one of the competitors challenged by the wind.
“It was pushing us around. You had to catch your shot before it moved you,” Drake said as he walked off the range after the storm delay. “But, so far, the match has been pretty fun.”
Fun defines the match.
“We get to spend time with people on our team, and we get to shoot with friends from different states,” said AJ Garner, who also shoots for Texas. “We’re having fun.”
One of their coaches, Kristen Morton, said Camp Perry is worth the long trip from Texas.
“The kids enjoy it, and I like working with the juniors. It keeps them interested in firearms,” she said.
Junior Emme Walrath Excels with Continued Growth on the National Stage in 2021
Emme Walrath, 15, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has had an exciting year. A regular at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) Monthly Air Gun Matches, often shining in precision air rifle, she has progressed from local events to the national stage – maintaining outstanding scores and setting a reputation as a respectable contender in her stride.
Last December, Walrath earned 8th overall at the Gary Anderson Invitational 3×20 junior air rifle competition, held at the CMP’s Camp Perry air gun range in Ohio. She returned to the range later that month to reach 19th overall in the USA Shooting Winter Airgun event and even set a new J3 Age Group National Record on Day 1 (621.1).
In March 2021, Emme shot a score of 599-53X at the Indiana Junior Olympics – dropping only one point in the prone position. She also earned third overall in the 60 Shot Open Match at the Camp Perry Open in May as well as second amongst all juniors. Additionally, her Southport Xception junior team (Walrath and teammates Dylan Gregory and Anthony Hotko) claimed the third overall spot in the Open and Junior match.
“I enjoy the feeling of being able to shoot – it’s addicting,” she said.
Walrath admits that part of what she loves about the sport is the people she’s met along the way. Throughout her lifetime, she’s been involved in several different activities like piano, swimming, fencing and violin. She’s enjoyed them all, but for Walrath, shooting seemed to have the best support system and a community of remarkable people who she has become friends with through her travels. She now sees herself as an ambassador of sorts and is happy to spread the positivity that can come with marksmanship.
“For people who have never heard of the sport before, explaining it to them is fun,” she said. “Hopefully I can help grow the sport a bit too.”
Walrath offers encouragement to curious juniors looking to join, suggesting, “Definitely try it out. You might find it really fun! It’s not like other sports, and it’s an experience that I think most people should try.”
She began her own career when she was in middle school. Her parents decided that they wanted her to learn gun safety and shooting and soon got Walrath involved with pistol at the local Southport Gun Club in Kenosha.
“But, I didn’t really like it all that much,” she confessed.
Walrath soon learned the club also had a junior rifle program. She gave it a try, and as it turned out, she liked rifles a lot more than pistols. Jon Speck, the coach at the club, started training her on three-position smallbore rifle and eventually introduced her to air rifle. Naturally, he has grown to be an important mentor in her marksmanship journey.
“He’s always been with me since the very beginning, like my parents,” she said of Speck. “No matter what, he’s been there for me and helped me so much in this sport. Without him, I don’t think I could ever have been where I am today.”
Walrath practices several times a week, either in her coach’s basement or at the local range. Sometimes she connects with the club’s junior team, the Southport Xception, and other times she competes as an individual. She’s also a member of Grand Rapids Rifle and Pistol Club in nearby Michigan.
As with Speck, Walrath credits Grand Rapids Coach Cameron Zwart for helping her move on to and excel at national-level competitions.
“He has opened my view of shooting world,” she said.
Other advanced matches Walrath experienced in 2021 include the National Junior Olympic Three-Position Air Rifle Championships, fired in Ohio and Alabama in July. During the event, Walrath provided guests at the Camp Perry Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center a thrilling view into the fierce competition of junior marksmanship as she forced a shoot off in the concluding elimination final. With one shot left, Walrath fired the higher score to nab the win. She returned the following day to overtake the CMP Three-Position final as well. When it was all over, Walrath left with a 7th-place overall finish in the Junior Olympic match and 5th overall in the CMP event.
Outside of being awarded for her achievements on the firing line during her National Three-Position showing, she was also formally pinned the Junior Distinguished Air Rifle Badge she had earned a few months earlier in February.
She stuck around Camp Perry in July to attend her first National Smallbore Matches. Competing against some of the most talented marksmen in the country, Walrath managed to reach third overall in the Junior 3×40 Iron Sight Match – once again proving her abilities on a national platform.
“It may get tough at times, but you always have to keep the right mindset and trust the process,” she said.
With apparent success in her process over the last year, Walrath will focus on maintaining her scores, hoping to someday break the 630.0 mark.
“That means getting my hold consistent and a lot tighter,” she said.
Of course, Walrath recognizes that she wouldn’t be able to make any competition, whether in Ohio, Alabama or anywhere else, without the help of her parents. Her mom, Fawng, and her dad, Shawn, have championed her fully since she began and have helped lead her along her career.
“My parents, have always been on my side,” she said. “They were the first to support my continuation into the rifle marksmanship sport.”
She also admits that they, along with her coaches and friends, keep her driven in her quest for progress.
“The self-satisfaction that comes from improvement is very motivating,” she said.
Now accustomed to national matches, Walrath is looking to one day move even further by competing collegiately for a NCAA rifle team and, eventually, traveling to international matches – including that ultimate stage, the Olympic Games.
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