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Olympians Showcase Games Readiness, Grinnell Flourishes with Women’s Record In Skeet National Championships

Look out London, the Vincent Hancock/Frank Thompson express is barreling down on you, and given their performances at the 2012 USA Shooting National Championships their next stop might be the Olympic podium.

Hancock (USAMU/Eatonton, Ga.), in what he termed a pre-Olympic tune-up, again showcased his Olympic readiness missing one whole target over 275 shots to win the national title by four points.  If you include the perfect 100 he shot in pre-event training, he nailed 374 of 375 targets.  Dialed in?  Perhaps, but for the perfectionist Hancock, only a repeat gold medal will be satisfaction enough.

“This was a perfect set-up for London in that I came in here and shot the match I know I’m capable of shooting,” he said. “There’s no rest between now and when I shoot in  London and I’ll use every day to make sure I’m where I need to be.”

Hancock, with just one World Cup medal since his 2008 Olympic gold medal conquest, says that the confidence in his game changed after making the event final at the Olympic Test Event and World Cup in London.  He’s demonstrated that ability nationally with an 11-target win at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials followed by his 274 at Nationals.  Now, the only thing to prove, is that he’s capable of such against the world’s best.

Friend and Olympic teammate Thompson (Alliance, Neb.) again demonstrated his composure in a high-pressured finals situation and overcame a two-target deficit to BJ Blanchard (Vidor, Texas) to earn the silver medal.  Having missed just three targets over his 250 qualifying shots, Blanchard missed three shots in the 25-target final to fall to third.  Thompson was down three targets in the final of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and shot a 50/50 through a 25-shot final and subsequent 25-shot shoot-off to earn his Olympic bid.  He explains his knack for coming up big in the most intense moments.

“It’s just something I work at a lot putting myself in different scenarios and striving to hit every target.  It just seems that staying focused comes a little more naturally in that final.”

The other three finalists in Men’s Skeet represents the bright future the U.S. has in the sport as junior competitors  Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas), Robert Johnson (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Jakob Keldsen (Walkerton, Ind.) finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.  Those three would finish 1 thru 3 in the Junior Division as well followed by Phillip Jungman (Caldwell, Texas), Hayden Stewart (Columbia, Tenn.) and Granger DeWitt (Byran, Texas).

Jaiden GrinnellNaysayers will label the recent women’s skeet dominance of Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.) as bad for the sport with just one Olympic spot available, but athletes like Jaiden Grinnell (Port Angeles, Wash.) view it as a challenge worth accepting.  She did just that in the absence of the sport’s top star with a shoot for the ages to earn the 2012 National title in Women’s Skeet by nine points. Grinnell posted a score a 269/275 score overall and with a 245 in qualifying surpassed the two national records Rhode set in 2009.  Rhode had a combined (qualifying + final) score of 267 and a qualifying score of 242.

“It just feels great to be back,” Grinnell stated, after a prolonged absence following her departure from the Colorado Springs resident program.  “Going home has been great. The Training Center was an excellent opportunity for growth, but being closer to family was a priority for me.  I lost my love for shooting and I’m at peace now and it’s been really good to get back to my community and results like this prove to me that I made the right move.”

Finishing second was Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, La.)  with an overall score of 260.  Former National Team member Amber English (Colorado Springs, Colo.), despite little practice time due to the demands of trying to obtain a college degree, finished in third position with a score of 259.  Junior athletes Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas), Gayla Gregory (College Station, Texas) and Morgan Craft (Muncie Valley, Pa.) rounded out the top-six finishers.   Those three would finish 1 thru 3 in the junior division as well followed by Riley Moody (Tulsa, Okla.), Dania Vizzi (Odessa, Fla.), and Kendall Reed (Azle, Texas).

The Double Trap shooters take the stage on Sunday with a training round followed by two days of competition with the finals on Tuesday.  Featured shooters include 2008 Olympic gold medalist Glenn Eller (USAMU/Katy, Texas), 2008 Olympian and 2011 National Champion Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, Calif.) and 2010 World Champion and 2012 Olympian Josh Richmond (Hillsgrove, Pa.).

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