The way our flight worked out, KeeWee and I arrived at the hotel in Valencia early evening, so I didn't have any chance to get out to the range and do any practice. Since we arrived late, match registration was closed, so I had to be at the match range, just up the valley from Piru, California, at roughly 7am. Next year I am going to try to get there a day early to get in a little practice and get acclimatized a bit.
When we got to the range we walked up the hill to the registration tent to get signed in. While we were waiting for registration to open we ran into Nick and Ryan Leonard from Portland, Oregon. Nick puts on the annual Man of Steel match in Portland, and Nick's son Ryan is last year's and this year's national Junior champion in Steel Challenge.
Gary Guy, USPSA Area 1 Rep., was running registration. Gary handed me the match envelope with the scoreing stuff and a current rule book. "Based on how you did last year, I'm putting you on Squad #2.
", he said, with a slight smile. (Note to self: When Gary has that smile, watch out!) "Oh?"
, I said naively, "Who else is on the squad?"
"Kay Miculek, Billy and Jessie Abbate, Randi Rogers, Jim O'Young, Tori Nonaka, Molly Young, Clyde Harrison, Jec Clark, and Ken Kupsch."
It took a moment for that to sink in. "You're on the number 2 super squad"
, Said Gary, still smiling. My heart may have stopped completely, at least for a moment.
For those of you wondering exactly what a Super Squad is, at high level matches where there is likely to be media present, they group the top shooters together into one squad that travel as a group from stage to stage. This makes it easy for the media to follow, photograph, and video the likely winners and top finishers. This squad will be made up of shooters like BJ Norris, KC Eusebio, Rob Leatham, Todd Jarrett, JJ Racaza, and other shooters of that caliber (terrible pun....). The number 2 super squad will be next fastest guys, and the fastest ladies in the world. This time it would be the next fastest guys, the world's fastest ladies, and, well, um, me...... oy!
Jim O'Young, Molly Smith, Kay Miculek, Jec Clark, Me, Randi Rogers, Clyde Harrison, Ken Kupsch, Billy Abbate, Jessie Abbate, and Tori Nonaka. Me, "Gunnie", and Molly Smith, three generations of shooters. The squad in the shade tent, just before the start of the match. I'm the one in the yellow shirt noticeably shaking.....
Kay Miculek and Jessie Abbate.
We all assembled at the first stage and got ready to start the match. I have to admit that shooting with this group was definitely intimidating. These folks are ALL good! The good news is that I didn't have to shoot first. The bad news is that I got to shoot second, right behind Kay Miculek. Kay holds a number of Steel Challenge World Records for ladies! Truly a tough act to follow.
Our first stage was "Pendulum", and I have always had reasonably good results, at least for me, on this one. I tried to go through my regular routine and let muscle memory do it's job, but a bit too much adrenaline, I think, and I shot my worst stage of the day.
Molly Smith, 12 years old, and already an excellent shooter.
Our second stage was Smoke & Hope, the fastest stage of all. Since I had not done too well on the first stage I kept it kind of conservative and tried to just get through the stage without any major mistakes. I did. No great times, but no penalties and I was starting to settle down a bit.
In Steel Challenge each stage has a tempo to it. The better you are, the faster the tempo. With all of these really fast shooters on the squad it was a huge temptation to try to shoot at their tempo, rather than my own. After all, I CAN shoot at that speed, I just miss a lot! I could see that I needed to keep my adrenaline on a short leash and try not to make any big mistakes.
As we moved from stage to stage I managed to settle down a bit, but not completely. There were a total of eight stages to the match.
One of the most challenging stages is "Outer Limits" where you shoot two plates from one position, then have to move to a second position to shoot the last three plates. This is the one stage where you can absolutely destroy your score if you mess up. If you miss one of the first two plates you will have to come back to the first position and shoot it again then move to the second position to finish. a 4 or 5 second run turns into 7 or 8 or even worse, really easily. I figured if I could shoot relatively safe 5 second runs without any penalties that would be OK for me, anyway. I ended up with a 4.83, a 5.39, and a third run in the upper fives. Not quite what I wanted, but again, I didn't do any major damage, either!
Running from the first position to the second, looking through the sight for the next plate so when I get into the shooter's box it will be a quick shot. Jessie Abbate - Absolutely amazing shooting skills. She set five world records for ladies over the three days of the match. Tori Nonaka - Only a little slower than Jessie and Kay. Whew!
As we neared the final stages I was starting to feel more comfortable with the pressure, although the heat was starting to get to me a bit. It was hot and dusty, and I don't see much of that at home in Washington. I actually managed a couple of personal bests near the end of the match. By the last stage I think I was just about out of gas, and the last stage wasn't too good, my timing was starting to fall apart and I had to take a few extra shots to get all the hits I needed. I had managed to complete the match without any penalties for missed plates, which is always a primary goal. The gun had run flawlessly all day.
We gathered up our gear and headed for the rental car, it's air conditioning, and back to the hotel to cool off and was off the dust. A quick stop at a grocery store on the way scored a bottle of sports drink and an ice cream bar. They were both gone by the time we reached the hotel.
That evening the rimfire scores were posted at the hotel. I hadn't shot the best I've ever done, but at least for me, I hadn't done too badly, either. I ended up 25th over all in rimfire, 22nd in the Optic sight class, out of 83 shooters. In our squad I had finished 7th out of the 11 in the squad. I had missed winning the Rimfire Senior Division by only thirty-nine hundredths of a second! Second place in the Rimfire Senior Division isn't that bad, though, and I'll definitely take it!I guess it's not too soon to start practicing for next year.......
All photos by KeeWee
Labels: Steel Challenge