World class talent on target at the Nationals

The 2022 Australian Clay Target Association ISSF Nationals held at the Victorian State ground at Echuca Gun Club (13-18 January) kicked off this years shotgun domestic endorsed event programme. The competition included Commonwealth and National title events across both Trap and Skeet and comprised two out of the four national team selection events for this years World Championships.

This years Nationals enabled athletes from around the country the opportunity to come together to compete in the ACTA’s pinnacle ISSF event for the first time since January 2020. The 2021 Nationals were cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19 and the subsequent closure of a number of state borders.

Some solid pre-nationals preparation meant competition was as strong as ever!

The Skeet Commonwealth Title started off competition on day one (Friday) and saw equal world record holder Luke Argiro (VIC) return to competition after a twelve month absence. Joshua Bell (NSW) showed great form during qualifying, shooting an impressive 122 out of 125 targets to lead first time Nationals competitor Mark Du Rose (VIC) by 7 targets, and Frank Morris (NSW) by 15 targets. Luke Argiro finished qualifying on 106, equal with Doyle Yoannidis (SA). Nick Dimasi (VIC) rounded off the top 8 men semi-finalists (86 out of 125 targets) under the new finals format introduced by the ISSF in January 2022.

The top two competitors from each of the two semi finals progressed through to the medal match where Argiro was too strong, taking the gold medal, “it felt good to be back and was a tough final with a tough wind and was good to come out on top”. Bell took the silver medal with 29/40 in the medal match and Du Rose the bronze medal with 23/30.

With only four women competing in the Skeet Commonwealth Title meant they all qualified for the medal match, with the semi finals determining their bib positions. Although after the qualifying competition Aislin Jones (VIC) lead Brittany Melbourne (VIC) by four targets on 112/125, Melbourne applied even more pressure during the medal match with Jones claiming the win by a single target, “I felt good, it was my first competition back in a little while so it was nice to start the year off” says Aislin. Chelsea McKinnon (SA) won the bronze medal and Junior Hannah Munro (SA) finished in fourth place.

The Trap Commonwealth Title was the next event and after the first 75 targets on day one, James Willett (VIC), Thomas Grice (NSW) and Nathan Argiro (NSW) led the men on 73/75 targets. Penny Smith (VIC) led the women with a score of 71/75, followed by Charlie Hudson (VIC) and Laetisha Scanlan (VIC) who were both on 67/75. Willett continued his lead at the conclusion of day 2 finishing qualifying on 123/125 and one target ahead of Argiro who finished with a personal best of 122/125. Grice finished qualifying with 121/125, equalling his personal best. Jeff Tonna (VIC) rounded off the top 8 men with a qualifying score of 117/125.

In the medal match, Grice was the first to be eliminated in fourth place with 10/15. Mitchell Iles (VIC) won the bronze medal with a score of 19/25. Willett was victorious and crowned the winner of the 2022 Mens Trap Commonwealth Title mentioning in his after medal match interview that he “felt pretty good over the two days shooting a solid qualifying score and went into the finals knowing competition was going to be tough”. Craig Henwood (VIC) the silver medal, 3 targets behind Willett.

Smith continued her qualifying lead shooting 50 out of 50 on day two and finishing on 121/125 targets. Renae Jones (VIC) finished qualifying on 113/125 and one target ahead of Scanlan. Alexis Preston rounded off the top 8 womens qualifiers with a score of 108 out of 125. It was Smith, Kiara Dean (VIC), Molly Bretag (SA) and Jones into the Womens Trap Commonwealth Title medal match. Bretag was the first to be eliminated in fourth place with a score of 11/15. After the second series and a total of 25 targets, Dean claimed the bronze medal with 16 out of 25. Victorious Smith, who in her after win interview noted that she “felt confident going into the finals and got the job done” had a lead of  7 targets ahead of Jones who won silver.

Joshua Bell continued his form during qualifying in the Skeet National Championship event finishing on 121/125 targets and recording two qualifying personal bests. Mark Du Rose finished qualifying two targets behind Bell on 119 and Luke Argiro finished on 116/125. Junior Doyle Yoannidis (SA) rounded off the top eight men with a qualifying score of 101/125. Into the medal match and Bell finished in fourth place with 15/ 20 targets and Du Rose took the bronze medal. Darren Perkins (QLD) pushed Argiro until the end, winning the silver medal. In his post medal match interview as the Mens Skeet National Champion, Argiro noted “I am looking forward to competition in general this year and definitely looking forward to getting back onto the international circuit”.

With only three athletes contesting the Womens National Skeet Championship, Aislin Jones (qualifying on 119/125) , Brittany Melbourne (qualifying on 108/125) and Hannah Munro (qualifying on 75/125) all progressed through to the medal match. Jones claimed her second title of the competition and in addition to the Ladies Skeet Commonwealth Title winner, was also crowned the winner of the Womens Skeet National Title and is looking forward to seeing how this year pans out with the short term goal to make a world cup team early this year and the long term goal the Paris Olympics in 2024. Melbourne finished in second place, winning the silver medal and Munro finished with the bronze medal.

The Trap National Title commenced on Monday and at the end of the first 75 targets of qualifying James Willett was faultless with a score 75/75, and Penny Smith only 1 target down finishing day one on 74/75. At the end of day two and 125 qualifying targets, Smith broke an Australia record finishing on 124/125 targets, leading the entire Trap field of both Men and Women. This also was a new personal best for Smith, beating her personal best of 123/125 at the 2019 ACTA Nationals in Brisbane. Molly Bretag was the second top women’s qualifier finishing on 115/125, smashing her personal best by a massive 6 targets. Charlie Hudson finished behind Bretag on 114/125. Alexis Preston rounded off the top 8 women with a score of 107/125. At the conclusion of a tough semi final, Smith regained her composure only missing one target to take the gold medal and her second title win of the Nationals. Catherine Skinner (VIC) finished four targets behind Smith, taking the silver medal. Renae Jones won the bronze medal with Alexis Preston finishing in fourth place.

In the Mens Trap National Title, shoot offs were the theme! James Willett and Craig Henwood were equal top qualifiers on 121/125 and a shoot off was required to determine their bib numbers for the semi finals. Willett won the shoot off after three targets. A score of 114 rounded off the mens top 8 qualifiers with Jeff Tonna and Joey Yarak (VIC) shooting off for the final position in the semi finals. Tonna won the shoot off after two targets. At the conclusion of semi final 1, Thomas Grice and Willett progressed through to the medal match, as did Nathan Argiro from semi final 2. Mitchell Iles and Craig Henwod finished Mens semi final 2 tied and needed to shoot off for a position in the medal match. Iles was victorious after 4 targets and entered the medal match in bib position 4. Willett was the first to be eliminated from the medal match in fourth position after missing 5 out of the first series of 15 targets. The bronze medal went to Iles with a score of 20/25 and at the end of the third series to determine the gold and silver medals, Argiro and Grice were tied on 29/35 and entered a sudden death shoot off. Argiro was victorious with 5/5 in the shoot and won the gold medal with Grice winning the silver medal.

Full event results can be found on MyClubsMyScores or via the Shooting Australia website

The ACTA ISSF Nationals showed an enormous team effort in event delivery with significant contributions from the ACTA, Victorian Clay Target Association, Echuca Gun Club, the Australian ISSF Officials, Shooting Australia and an abundance of volunteers.

Thank you also to Spartan Global and Eurotarget for providing the flash targets used in the semi finals and medal matches. These targets will be used in each of the World Championships national team selection events and is the third consecutive year Spartan Global and Eurotarget have supported Shooting Australia’s endorsed event programme.

Lastly a big thank you to the Athletes and their support teams for attending during what is such a fragile climate right around Australia. Without your enthusiasm for competition, these events would not be the success they are.

The next endorsed shotgun event will be the New South Wales State Titles hosted by Cecil Park Clay Target Club at the Sydney International Shooting Centre, 8 to 10 April. Please visit the Shooting Australia website for all endorsed event information.

The Shotgun World Championships national team selection leaderboard can be found at HERE

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