Just two years ago, Thomas McGowan was making waves here at NRA Family as a Rising Shooting Star. At the time, he told NRA Family columnist Serena Juchnowski that his desire is "To be the high junior in the President’s 100 Rifle Match and National Trophy Individual Match, as well as having the highest individual junior score in the National 2-Man Junior Team Match and National Trophy Team Match, all in one year." That's about as ambitious as ambition can be, but Thomas has already achieved one of those goals ... thanks with more than a little help from his sister, Kacie. It's proof of what happens when NRA Families participate in the shooting sports together!
In the match, the siblings outperformed 50 other two-man teams to earn the first-place spot at the National Trophy Junior Team Match during the 2023 National Matches. Their names will be added to the prestigious Freedom’s Fire Trophy at Camp Perry.
Thomas, an experienced marksman who recently earned a spot on the U.S. National Rifle Team, provided an extra level of comfort for Kacie, who is an exceptional but less experienced competitor.
“It was a really great experience because Thomas is a really great shooter but also my brother, so it was less stressful for me. He has a calming personality,” Kacie said.
Adding their names to the Freedom’s Fire Trophy was an honor for both.
“Who doesn’t want their name on a national championship trophy?” Thomas said. “It reflects the hard work we put into it.”
Because this was the first time Kacie’s name has been inscribed on a trophy, it was a poignant match for her.
“It’s very cool, especially seeing my name next to my brother’s,” she said.
Kacie and Thomas joined their teammates Thomas Kirsten, James Lee, Anna Behnke and Casey Hollenbeck to win the Minuteman Trophy for the High Junior Team in the National Trophy Team Match. The team scored 2913-92X (out of 3000 points) and was coached by Kaleb Hall. WI Cheddar finished as the second junior in the National Trophy Infantry Team Match.
CMP Programs Chief Christie Sewell said the National Trophy Junior Team Match is a favored competition at the National Matches. It encompasses four elements: slow-fire standing and rapid-fire sitting or kneeling from standing at 200 yards, rapid-fire prone from standing at 300 yards and slow-fire prone at 600 yards.
“It’s one of the most popular because it’s teams that compete. There are 3,500 CMP shooting clubs across the U.S., and the teams that come here represent those clubs and their state associations,” Sewell said.
The match is distinctive at Camp Perry for the unique camaraderie it inspires.
“What’s really neat about the match is so many people that shoot here, including military personnel and elite competitors, will help. They’ll coach the junior competitors and work in the pits,” Sewell said. “It’s really special because people want the junior competitors to have a great time. It’s pretty amazing how many people help with this match.”
The match began under sunny but windy conditions, and Sewell watched as a storm moved into Camp Perry, with strong wind developing into an impediment for the competitors. Lightning forced match officials to postpone the 300 and 600-yard competitions, but not before the wind played havoc with the competitors during the standing stage.
“The wind conditions during standing made the skilled shooters rise to the top,” Sewell said. “You really have to focus on conditions, and they powered through the wind.”
Seventeen-year-old Drake Johnson of Texas was one of the competitors challenged by the wind.
“It was pushing us around. You had to catch your shot before it moved you,” Drake said as he walked off the range after the storm delay. “But, so far, the match has been pretty fun.”
Fun defines the match.
“We get to spend time with people on our team, and we get to shoot with friends from different states,” said AJ Garner, who also shoots for Texas. “We’re having fun.”
One of their coaches, Kristen Morton, said Camp Perry is worth the long trip from Texas.
“The kids enjoy it, and I like working with the juniors. It keeps them interested in firearms,” she said.
Find full results from the 2023 National Trophy Matches at https://ct.thecmp.org/23NMRifleresults.