Last updated on April 15th, 2018 at 11:05 am
Last weekend was a big one for prone and F-Class shooters in the Upper Midwest. 40 shooters were on hand, including some of the best in the region – all there to duke it out for the coveted gold, silver and bronze NRA medals.
Friday night campers were treated to impressive thunderstorms overnight, and the forecast for Saturday was sketchy with rain likely throughout the day. At the recent Fullbore State Championship match at the same venue, I found myself asking; “Can’t the wind ever just blow from one side at this range?” referring to the infamous Gopher fishtail that is so often in play here. Well, my wish finally came true. Aside from a few scattered showers, the overall conditions were very favorable throughout the day, leading to some big scores.
In the sling category, Morgen Dietrich’s scores with his scoped .243 were the biggest of them all, and his 599-39x included clean 200’s with 14 and 11 X’s. Pending official confirmation, we believe that his 200-14x ties the MN state record for the 1000-yard line with a scope. I did my best to keep him from running away with it, managing to hold onto all but 2 of my points, but with a lot fewer X’s than he posted to his cards. Jay Johnson was close at my heels, losing only 5 for the day to keep things even more interesting. The f-class divisions were similarly knotted up, with new Gopher regular Drew Rutherford and Chuck Laitinen trading match wins all day in FTR, with Drew holding a 3-point lead at the end of the day. There was a 4-man race shaking down in F-Open, led by Eric Johnson and Chris Lungley.
A soaking rain on the last relay of the day took the wind out of the sails for the 2-main team match, which was subsequently cancelled. This was disappointing, as Brian “Bro Coat” Mrnak was finally at a match to model his new Leprechaun-sized shooting jacket, and I was confident that “Team RhoNak” would repeat it’s 2014 performance in teaching a 1000-yard lesson to all challengers. Maybe next year…
The rain was gone on Sunday morning, but the wind had finally arrived. By 8 am, the flags were already fuller than we had seen at any time during the whole previous day. Shooters reported to their new firing points to get things underway. Jay Johnson kicked things off with a match win in match #4, and his 199-8x moved him into 2nd place for the weekend agg, and 1 point closer to 1st with Morgen firing a 198-7x. My own 195 dropped me down into 3rd, so there would be work to do if I hoped to scratch my way back into the race. As conditions started getting tougher, my 198-10x was good enough to win match #5, moving me back into 2nd place, and again within 1 point of Morgen’s lead. No way could I match his x-count, so it would take a 2-point win in the last match to seal it up. Jay was still in contention, but had lost some ground in match 5.
Saturday’s F-Class leaders did not let off the gas on Sunday, with Eric Johnson and Chris Lungley picking up right where they left off the day before. Chris managed the only 200 of the day in any category in Match #4, and also won match #5. Magic Mike Lehmeier took match #6 in the trickiest wind condition of the day, showing that he still has some tricks up his sleeve. Johnson didn’t win a single match on Sunday, but he didn’t miss by much, and his small lead from Saturday was enough for him to squeak to a 1-point victory over Lungley for the Regional aggregate. I know Chris will have heartburn over that one point for a while…
Drew Rutherford continued to build on his lead in FTR by winning all 3 of Sunday’s matches. Chuck Laitinen was not far behind, but couldn’t stop the bleeding in time to stage a comeback. Drew proved the old shooting adage: “When the wind starts blowing, never bet against a shooter from North Dakota!”
Speaking of guys from North Dakota, Morgen “Man Boy” Dietrich just needed a score within 2 points of mine in the last match to wrap up the Gold Medal. We happened to be squadded right next to each other, so it would be a fair fight. Things started out good for me - I made a solid wind call and was rewarded with a 10 and an X for sighters. Feeling like there was no time like the present, I informed my scorekeeper that the next shot was going to count. Morgen was taking his sweet time shooting sighters, so I hoped to shoot fast and expose myself to fewer wind changes. I broke a clean center shot for #1, so I was surprised to see the target come up with a 9 at 3 o’clock. Hmmm, didn’t see that one coming… Ok, ½ left should straighten that out. Shot #2 came up another 9 at 3 o’clock. Something was definitely going on here that I wasn’t seeing, so I waited and watched before putting another ½ left on and shooting again. Shot #3: ANOTHER 9 at 3 o’clock! Crap, is Morgen still shooting sighters?!? Another ¾ left brought shot #4 into the X-ring, and I breathed a small sigh of relief before watching my target come up showing shot #5 an 8 at 3 o’clock. This was not good. I was already down 5 points and Morgen hadn’t even started his record string yet! After the initial catastrophe, I managed to only lose 5 more over the next 15 shots, but the damage was done. Every time I missed a change and shot a 9, Morgen’s target would come up a 10 or an X. Morgen cruised to victory with a match-winning score (his 3rd of the weekend) of 195-7x. Jay was on the next relay and still had a chance to pull back into 2nd, or even win it all if he could manage a 200, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Morgen’s excellent shooting all weekend earned him another gold medal for his vast collection, and 3 trophies for the mantle – Amy will be so pleased!
Congrats to all of the medal winners, and a big thanks to Mark Schoess and the GRRC staff for making this another great Regional. This match has been growing in size over the last few years under Mark’s command, and it’s easy to see why. GRRC is a world-class facility, and Mark and crew do an excellent job making sure that everything runs like a well-oiled machine.
*Be sure to Mark your calendars for the MN Long Range and Palma championship matches coming up on July 8-10!