This year’s SSAA National Junior Challenge was hosted at the SSAA Batemans Bay range in New South Wales from July 8 to 10 and attracted participants from every state and territory in Australia. Competitions included the three core events of Field Rifle, 3-Positional and Rifle Metallic Silhouette, as well as BR30 Rimfire Benchrest and 10m Precision Air Rifle as supplementary options. There were coaching clinics, a trivia and pizza night, plus the formal competition to make an action-packed three days.
Friday began with a very informative Field Rifle coaching session run by Batemans Bay local Steve Ison with demonstrations by two talented juniors, Jordan Robinson, from South Australia, and Western Australia’s Keigan Williams. This was followed by a BR30 Benchrest exhibition and coaching interlude covering bench technique and equipment as well as wind reading and using wind flags. Experienced local Ann Brummell and I conducted the session.
The Field Rifle competition highlighted some incredible young talent. It was wet and cold, adding to the degree of difficulty for the competitors, target crew and scorers, but this did little to deter the spirit of anticipation and the results across the field were excellent. The Under 15s event was won by Katarina Kowplos (SA) with a score of 384.06, while Williams and Laughlan Freeman (Tas) took second and third respectively. The Under 18s title was won by Elise Collier (Vic) with 380.02. In second place was Robinson and James Davenport (Vic) secured third.
Saturday’s 3-Positional event kicked off just as the weather improved and created ideal conditions for the rest of the weekend. The Under 15s event was won by Kowplos with 559.08, Williams in second and Freeman third. The Under 18s was snared by Collier with 560.12, while Robinson and Davenport landed took second and third.
The BR30 Benchrest was also run on the Saturday with Batemans Bay locals Stella Cross coming first, Ryan Hall placing second and Clair Ison (NSW) taking out third for the Under 15s. The Under 18s event was won by Suthasinee Khanprasert (ACT) followed by Sarah Hall (NSW) in second place and Davenport third.
Saturday night saw everyone in the clubhouse with the fire roaring awaiting the presentations for the day’s events. SSAA NSW Executive Director Diana Melham and SSAA Benchrest National Discipline Chairman Dave Billinghurst were there to award the winners of each event. The night was finished off with pizza and trivia where juniors, parents and volunteers all had a laugh and a great evening.
On Sunday the focus switched to the Rifle Metallic Silhouette event, run by Con Smith. The quality shooting continued with several competitors achieving personal bests, runs of 10 out of 10 and national awards. The Under 15s match was won by Kowplos with 56, followed by Williams and Freeman who took second and third respectively. The Under 18s was won by Robinson with 49, while Davenport secured second place and Collier rounded out the top three.
The 10m Precision Air Rifle event was run all weekend with competitors practising and shooting their two official targets as time allowed between events. There were five competitors who shot two perfect targets each that were impossible to split for places. A decision was made to hold a shoot-off for the top places using the more difficult official target and shorter time limits.
Kowplos and Williams competed in Under 15s and Robinson, O’Connor (ACT) and Davenport (Vic) took part in the Under 18s. This provided an amazing spectator event with almost the entire field squeezing into the gallery to watch. The atmosphere was electric as all eyes were on the talented competitors who shot near perfect targets in a fine display of shooting under pressure. Final results in the Under 15s were Kowplos in first place, Williams second and Freeman in third spot. The Under 18s was won by Robinson, with O’Connor taking second and Davenport third.
The national medals for the core events were awarded by SSAA National Secretary and Junior Coordinator Kaye McIntyre. The results for Under 15s were Kowplos gold, Williams silver and Freeman bronze. In Under 18s, Collier took gold, Robinson silver and Davenport bronze.
As well as a lot of talented juniors, the event will be remembered for the amazing atmosphere among the parents, volunteers, range officers, scorers, canteen staff and competitors. Everyone pitched in and made the occasion the success that it was. Friendships were made and families are already talking about where and when the 2017 National Junior Challenge will be held.
by Anthony Hall