Three countries from around the Pacific Ocean put their best target shooters forward to go head to head on the range for the 4th Pacific Regional Shooting Championships held in New Zealand from November 12 to 18, 2012. Australia and New Zealand kept their friendly rivalry alive and representatives from New Caledonia threw their hats into the ring for the seven-day event. Proceedings began as competitors and officials were welcomed to the event by South Waikato Mayor Neil Sinclair.
The Pacific Regional Shooting Championships, held biennially in varying locations throughout the Pacific region, is a Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia and New Zealand Deerstalkers Association initiative. The championships aim to bring together target shooters from across the Pacific in a fun and friendly competition. The first event was held in Brisbane in 2006 and since then, both Australia and New Zealand have had the honour of holding the Pacific Regional Shooting Championships.
Rifle Metallic Silhouette
The first event of the 2012 Championships was Rifle Metallic Silhouette in Air Rifle, Rimfire and Centrefire for a field of 17 shooters, from Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. This event was met with some tight competition, as several competitors displayed some long runs in the reasonable weather.
The Air Rifle events were the first on the program and as expected, the competition was tight. Long-run performances made for some entertaining displays of skill, while the elusive 10 animals per bank were hard to reach for many competitors. Managing the long runs were Daniel Ison (24 chickens), Nikki Matheson (22 rams and 14 pigs), Darius Krivanek (10 chickens and 10 pigs), Darin Grenz (10 pigs), Allan Murray (10 pigs) and Mario Marin (10 pigs).
In this event, accolades went to New Zealander Nikki Matheson on 71, followed by Daniel Ison on 69 and Darius Krivanek on 68. The Aussies took control when it came to the Air Rifle teams accolades, with the Australia 1 pairing of James O’Brien and Darius Krivanek winning the gold, Dann Suthern and Daniel Ison of Australia 2 the silver and Nikki Matheson and Eirk Clausen of New Zealand 1 claiming the bronze.
The Rimfire Light Hunting Rifle competition showcased some up and coming Australian talent in 17-year-old Melissa Dean, who shot to the front of the field to win on 67 silhouettes over fellow Australians Darius Krivanek (65) and Daniel Ison (65). The Australian teams in this event went on to dominate, as James O’Brien and Darius Krivanek of Australia 2, Dann Suthern and Daniel Ison of Australia 1 and Dave McCarthy and Mario Marin of Australian 3 took gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Later in the week, the 3-Position Scoped Rifle and Centrefire Benchrest began in sunny conditions, but it wasn’t long before the Tokoroa range conditions tested all shooters as gusty winds and rain showers settled in. However, the competitors battled on as rain came in sideways and actually wet their scopes from the benches under the shelter!
Scoped Rifle in NRA-Anysight and Rimfire 3-Position was held over several days at the Tokoroa range, with a field of 17 shooters vying for the top spot. Stellar performances were put in by the two adult females in the field, Australia’s Ashlea Schiesser and New Zealand’s Brenda Perry, to feature in the top three for both the Rimfire and Centrefire competitions.
These events featured a number of junior shooters, both from Australia and New Zealand. A score of 558.09 gave New Zealand teenager Aidin Ralfe a top 10 spot in the Centrefire, and 1153.40 put Australia’s Alex Payne in 10th position for the rimfire event.
Team results showed the true nature of the competitiveness between the Australians and New Zealanders in this discipline. Colin Curreen and Brenda Perry of New Zealand took the honours for the Centrefire 3-Position and again for the Rimfire.
The Service Rifle events were held at the same time as the 3-Position but at the Rotorua range, with some 23 competitors taking part. The New Zealand competitors were gracious hosts, lending their semi-automatic rifles to the Australians, and the competition heated up, even though the temperature did not. These shooters were subject to some pretty tough conditions at the open air range on New Zealand’s North Island, but they soldiered on. Australian competitors had an even tougher job for this event, as they had to get used to the selection of AR-15s and SIG 550s borrowed from their New Zealand counterparts.
Proceedings began on the second to last day of the Championships with a range of events including 100 Snap, 200 3-Position, 300 Sustained Fire and 200 Turn, Tap and Rattle. Australia’s Michael Beak topped the field over the two days with a score of 698, almost 30 points ahead of his closest rival, Peter Keysers on 670. Michael took to the podium during the presentations with his two children, who with his wife had travelled with him to New Zealand on a family holiday for the competition. In the team standings, Michael and team-mate Tony Bennett (1226) came in second behind the New Zealand duo of Jason Davis and Colin Welch (1238).
The members of the Australian Service Rifle Teams would especially like to thank the SSAA, NZDA, NZSRA, and the New Zealand Police Service who issued visitors licences, as well as the New Zealand shooters who procured ammunition, loaned rifles and helped clean the rifles when they finished using them.
Official competition for the Championships finished on Sunday, November 18, with the Rimfire Benchrest event. The field of 12 shooters also had the mixed bag of weather that had plagued the competition throughout the week. The Benchrest Light Varmint and Heavy Varmint shooters were greeted with sunny conditions as they started their two days of shooting, but while conditions gradually worsened, their spirits remained high and some impressive scores were shot.
As wind forced the rain to come in sideways under the shelter, the Aussies again took centre stage in the Rimfire event. This time, it was junior shooter Mitchell Tallar, who won the day with 726.30, closely followed by Ashley Elford on 725.30 and Brian Mitchell on 725.24.
Junior Australian shooter Stuart Foate took the honours in the field of 18 shooters for the Light Varmint event with an aggregate of 0.3546, with New Zealander Ian Owen right behind him on 0.3598. In the Heavy Varmint, Australia’s Craig Whittleton took control of the day, and the rain and wind, to record an aggregate of 0.2908 over team-mate Murray Hicks on 0.3208. The team competition for this field was tight, but the Australians featured heavily throughout.
Juniors the cream of the crop
The SSAA junior competitors certainly stole the show at this Championships, with three of the under 18 competitors winning their competition and shooting some classy scores. The trio, Rifle Metallic Silhouette shooter Melissa Dean, Rimfire Benchrest shooter Mitchell Tallar and Centrefire Benchrest shooter Stuart Foate claimed gold in their respective disciplines, triumphing over their adult counterparts with years of experience in high-level shooting.
Stuart, a 17-year-old hailing from New South Wales, was the only junior shooter to qualify as an adult for the Pacific Regionals. He said the honour of being selected was enough, but when he was able to top the field in the Benchrest Light Varmint, it was the icing on the cake.
“I’ve always been a massive fan of New Zealand and the scenery, the culture and lifestyle, and to be able to shoot over there with the Australian team was priceless,” Stuart said.
“The pressure while competing was hard at the start because I knew there would be a lot of people watching me, but after my first group, the pressure started to thin out and I concentrated...It got to the point where I realised that here I am, I’m an Australian team member and I’m sitting in first place - it was a one-off amazing feeling.”
The tough weather conditions on the final day of competition was a trial for even the most experienced shooter, and 17-year-old Mitchell was tested in the worst conditions he’s ever competed in. However, he did manage to hold on and take home two gold medals, despite recording lower than normal scores.
It was just the final bank of silhouette targets that provided the challenge for New South Wales teenager Melissa Dean, who shot in relatively fine conditions early in the event.
“The competition was good and I always love to be really challenged,” she said. “I only really felt the pressure on my last target when I knew I was shooting so well.”
The trio are taking their experience and the confidence gained by their international-level wins into their future shoots. Melissa said she had gained a great deal of confidence from her win and that it would help her to focus on selections to qualify for 2014 international teams. Similarly, Stuart has his eyes on the World Benchrest Championships to be held in Australia this year and also gaining further Australian Benchrest Hall of Fame points. For Mitchell, his goal is to continue enjoying his sport, but you can’t deny that he, Melissa and Stuart have long futures in target shooting.
At the culmination of the Pacific Regional Shooting Championships, a presentation dinner and ceremony was held at the Tokoroa Club and all competitors were congratulated for their sportsmanship. Individual and team efforts were recognised during the formal ceremony, complete with medals, podiums and country flags.
Participants have now returned home and are ready to prime for the 2014 Championships, tipped to be held in Australia.