SOCORRO, N.M. April 14, 2012 – Smallbore rifle competitors from across the United States gathered in Phoenix for their own version of March Madness – five regional or state championships in five weeks and the New Mexico Tech Rifle Team was no exception.

Patrick Ward, (front, from left) Brian Sun and David Best of New Mexico Tech pose with the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team. In back, from left, are Olympians Jason Parker, Eric Uptagrafft, Matt Emmons, Josh Olson and Jamie Gray.


Patrick Ward (foreground), Brian Sun and David Best (at top) compete at the Arizona State 3200 Prone Championships in March.


Smallbore rifles are .22 caliber and competitors shoot in the prone position at distances of 50 feet, 50 meters, and 100 yards; iron sights one day and scope the second day. Some competitions last for four days. More information can be found at

The first regional championship was the Tarantula 4800 Metric Prone Regional Championship at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club range at South Mountain from February 24 to 27. Most of the New Mexico Tech Rifle Team had to attend class, so only Coach Virginia McLemore competed. She placed second behind the winner Peter Church of Minnesota.

The following weekend was the Road Runner 3200 Prone Regional Championship (March 3 and 4, also at South Mountain). McLemore was the winner, outshooting the second place competitor, Ken Nelson from Alberta, Canada, by three points. Third place went to Phoenix junior Zach Kofran. New Mexico Tech shooter David Best earned second place in the Marksman class, outscoring teammate Brian Sun by 49 points.

Diamondback 3200 Championships

The following weekend, shooters moved north to the range at Ben Avery for the Diamondback 3200 Prone Regional Championship (March 3-4, 2012). McLemore ended up third behind Church (match winner) and Nancy Tomkins (2nd). Best was High Junior, with Patrick Ward and Brian Sun just points behind him.

This led up to the major championship of the month, the 54th Western Wildcat 6400 Prone Championship, held at the Ben Avery Range north of Phoenix. 91 competitors shot over the four-day event and included members of the U.S.A. Olympic Rifle Team and the U.S. Army Marksmanship Team.

Captain Chris Abalo (U.S. Army) won the prestigious championship with an impressive 6398 out of a possible 6400. Eric Uptagrafft (U.S. Army) was second and Jamie Gray (U.S.A. Olympic Team) was third. McLemore placed 22nd. Tech Rifle Team members Patrick Ward (6th Marskman), David Best, and Brian Sun placed in the middle of the Marksman class, with only 18 points separating the three shooters. The highlight of the event was the opportunity to meet and compete against former and current Olympic shooters Matt Emmons, Jamie Gray, Josh Olson, Lones Wigger, Eric Uptagrafft, Jason Parker.

Meeting the Army Marksmanship Unit

March Madness cumulated with the Arizona State 3200 Prone Championship back at the South Mountain Range. Although only 16 shooters competed, it was one of the closest championships of the season. At the end of the first day, Nancy Tompkins of Prescott, Ariz., was in 1st place with a 1,599 out of a possible 1,600. Richard Layton and McLemore had the same score but a lower x-count. Church was 4th with a 1598. On the 2nd day, Layton dropped a point at the 100 yd match and McLemore dropped a point at the last 50 yard match, while Tomkins shot a perfect 1600. Tomkins is the Arizona State Champion with an impressive score of 3199, while Layton and McLemore came in 2nd and 3rd, respectively with a 3198 (Layton had more x’s). The Arizona Junior Champion is Tech Rifle Club member David Best, outscoring teammate Patrick Ward by only 15 points!

With the U.S.A Olympic Team

It is unusual to have so many high caliber championships in five weeks, but the weather in Phoenix is generally excellent during March. This provided the New Mexico Tech Rifle Team with a month of shooting. The team is currently preparing for the New Mexico State Air Rifle Championship in April 2012 in Socorro and additional championships during the summer. New members of the New Mexico Tech Shooting Sports Club are welcome. The club has regular practice at the New Mexico Tech gym classroom every Monday at 5 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters.

– NMT –

By Virginia T. McLemore/New Mexico Tech Shooting Coach