CAMP PERRY, Ohio – Though only in the eighth grade, Katie Zaun, 14, of the Buffalo Sharpshooters from North Dakota, showed exceptional marksmanship maturity as she became the aggregate winner of the National Three-Position Air Rifle Championships after earning third place in the National Junior Olympic match and first over her fellow competitors in the National Civilian Marksmanship Program event.
She was full of smiles as she posed for photos in a USA Shooting jacket as the newest member of its junior team, which was the honor she received for winning the two-day precision aggregate. She was also humble standing next to her family, grateful for her win and still unable to comprehend beating each competitor around her – most much more developed in years.
“It doesn’t really click in my mind,” she said of her win. “It’s crazy, shooting against really good people who are actually older than me – it really is. I’m still in shock.”
Zaun has been shooting since she was eight years old, beginning with BB gun before moving on to air rifle and smallbore, where she’s been practicing precision style shooting for almost five years now. This was her third trip to the Air Rifle Nationals event – and this time, she had goals in mind.
“All I wanted was to get into the finals because I was really close last year. I wasn’t expecting to place or anything,” she explained. “The previous years I’d get like seventh or eight in the finals, and I’d been really excited about that because it’s the finals – it’s important. This year I just kind of stayed in my zone and kept putting [the shots] down.”
Her strategy paid off as she earned qualifying rankings in the finals both days of the grueling three-position junior competitions.
The National Air Rifle Championships for junior precision and sporter air rifle competitors was held June 21-23 and June 24-26 at the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center, located on the grounds of Camp Perry in Ohio. The event combines the National Junior Olympic (JO) match with the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) competition. Individual and team awards are presented to each day’s winners, along with an award for the overall precision competitor of the two-day aggregate, who receives an honorary place on the USA Shooting junior team.
Unable to settle for just a regular win, Zaun set the bar even higher as she fired a new Age Group 3 National Record for a 3×20 plus Final during her CMP Nationals win, with a score of 697.9 – passing the previous record by 0.6 points. She had also received her Distinguished Air Rifle Badge, needing only one final point coming into the weekend.
“I was pretty excited. I know it means a lot – I worked really hard to get it,” she said.
With an entire high school career ahead of her, Zaun plans to keep on shooting. She doesn’t quite have any set plans, but she knows she’ll enjoy every second of her journey.
“I just want to have fun right now and see where it takes me,” she said.
In the CMP precision match, Rebecca Lamb, 15, of the Arlington Optimist Acorns CJRC from Virginia followed Zaun in second place with a score of 694.4, as individual competitor Jared Eddy, 16, of Midland, GA, finished with an overall score of 692.7.
In sporter, the ladies of the Zion Benton team from Illinois claimed the top two places in the CMP event as Jaycie Hoenig, 18, passed her teammate, Hailey Smith, 18, with a score of 668.3 for the win.
A graduated senior, Hoenig embraced every bit she could of her final air rifle competition – ending on a clear high note.
“It was definitely one of the most stressful and emotional matches. I don’t think there was a time that I wasn’t crying over the fact that I’m leaving,” Hoenig joked. “But it was definitely one of the most memorable.”
On firing beside one of her teammates during the finals, as she did each day with Smith, Hoenig said, “I always feel confident when I’m with my other teammates. No matter what we place, I’m always proud of them for what they do. It’s never really a race with me.”
She went on to say, “I feel extremely proud to have been a part of this (Zion Benton) program for the last four years. And hopefully later on I can show other family members and other friends around me what the Civilian Marksmanship Program is and have them get involved because it’s such a great program.”
A regular at CMP Monthly Matches and major air rifle competitions, she made a point to give credit to the organization for the experiences she gained from her marksmanship career.
“You guys (the CMP) have given me so many great opportunities every time I’ve come here. So it’s truly been an honor,” she said. “I love it. You guys are the greatest.”
Hoenig will be heading to Carthage College in Kenosha, WI, in the fall to study nursing with plans to hopefully one day become a nurse practitioner.
Behind Hoenig, Zion Benton teammate Hailey Smith fired an aggregate score of 663.8, as last year’s sporter JO Champion, Levi Carlson, 18, of Nation Ford HS MCJROTC from South Carolina, secured the third place spot with a score of 653.6.
Though Smith just missed out on the CMP Championship title, she had earlier made her mark when she fired an astonishing 10.9 on her last finals shot to become the overall winner of the JO competition with a commanding score of 666.8. She beat out last year’s CMP National Champ Emma Thompson, who squeaked by Hoenig by 0.3 points. The girls recorded scores of 656.5 and 656.2, respectively.
During her JO finals performance, Thompson also set a new Navy JROTC finals record with a score of 98.5, impressively jumping from sixth place to second. She even fired a difficult 10.9 shot and finished with a 10.7 on her final pellet during her astounding comeback.
In precision JO action, Sarah Osborn, 18, of Patriot Shooting Club from Virginia, outshot her closest competitor by 0.2 points to become the overall champion – recording a score of 691.9.
Also a graduated senior, Osborn left a lasting legacy at the National Three-Position matches over her career. Back in 2013, at just 14, she became the first overall precision winner of the CMP 3P National Championship. She returned the following year to earn second in the event and first overall in the JO championship, earning herself a place on the USA Shooting junior team and setting multiple National Records. After a break from the event in 2015, she restored her place on the podium in 2016 – winning both the CMP and JO National matches.
Next year, Osborn will join the five-time reigning NCAA National Championship rifle team, West Virginia University.
Trailing behind Osborn in second with a score of 691.7 was Justin Kleinhans, 17, of Black Swamp Jr. Rifle from Ohio, followed by Zaun who stuck close with a score of 690.8.
In addition to performance awards, the CMP presents three $1,000 Scholarships to the high scoring seniors of the CMP match. Congratulations to graduated seniors Haley Castillo, Sarah Osborn, Mica Harr, Jaycie Hoenig, Hailey Smith and Levi Carlson in the precision and sporter classes who earned scholarships to use towards their furthering education.
For a complete list of results, visit https://ct.thecmp.org/app/v1/index.php?do=match&tab=results&task=edit&match=15618&tab=results.
To view photos taken at the event, both within the range and the photo studio, follow the link to the CMP Zenfolio album at http://cmp1.zenfolio.com/f380421275.
As in the past, the MidwayUSA Foundation provided an unparalleled amount of generous endowments to leading teams throughout the Three-Position competition series. The mission of the Midway USA Foundation is to help communities and organizations raise funds to support youth shooting teams and activities, beginning with the generosity of MidwayUSA Foundation president Larry Potterfield and his wife, Brenda. Those within the CMP send sincerest gratitude for all that the foundation has done for youth marksmanship and for the success of the sport for generations to come.
The National Championship is a 3×20 air rifle match where competitors fire 20 record shots from three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. Junior JROTC, 4-H and club team precision and sporter marksmen involved in the competition began their journey with the CMP Postal Competition in November, where CMP-issued targets were mailed into Headquarters in Ohio for official scoring. Top shooters in the Postal Competition were invited to compete in the Regional Championships in March and April, with the overall high individuals and teams from that match qualifying for the National Championship.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.
The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. With a band of columnists and reviewers, photographers and female reporters, The WON engages its readers through a blog format and we invite you to talk to us. Thank you for reading! View all posts by Women's Outdoor News