FORT BENNING, Ga. –
If you could listen well enough, you might have heard the collective sigh of relief exhaled nationwide earlier today following one particular result at the 2019 Pan American Games. It came at the exact moment when Brazil’s Roberto Schmits was eliminated from the Men’s Trap competition in third place.
In that instant, 4006 days of anguish disappeared for the U.S. Men’s Trap program as Brian Burrows and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derek Haldeman (a Sunbury, Ohio native who is a competitive marksman/instructor with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, or USAMU) would finish as gold and silver medalists in Lima, Peru, and with it, the quota quest that no one wanted to talk about would be completed and 2020 vision was realized.
Travel back in time and that’s the day 47-year-old Bret Erickson (USAMU/Army veteran) and 44-year-old Dominic Grazioli (Air Force veteran) finished 22nd and 23rd at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Ever since, America’s shooting team had been waiting for this moment and it is why Tuesday, July 30 will be celebrated widely.
“Every medal and each quota is a huge accomplishment for our athletes and our program,” said National Team Coach Jay Waldron. “But the pursuit of the Men’s Trap quotas has definitely given me the most sleepless nights. Our coaching team pulled out all the stops with their Pan Am Games training of Brian and Derek.”
With it brings new hope and energy for a U.S. shotgun program that already had plenty. But something had been missing for almost 11 years and two Olympic Games with no men’s trap representative, and just like that, with a full U.S. Shotgun Team destined for Tokyo, all now seems right in the world.
Getting it done was Burrows, who had put the gun away for a bit early in 2016 as a multi-time national champion only to renew his commitment late last year to earn a bronze medal at Nationals. He made the World Championships and Pan Am Team during the Spring Selection Match and focused in on the task at hand of making sure the drought ended with a Tokyo 2020 berth.
Following suit was the converted double trap shooter and USAMU Soldier, Haldeman, who represents a whole fleet of competitors who have had to reinvent themselves this quad and learn to shoot a new game following the elimination of their event from the Olympic program. We’d say that transition seems to be going along just fine after the Soldier placed fifth at the 2017 Worlds and now, this even greater result.
“We knew they had all the tools to get the job done,” added Waldron. “They just needed to believe in themselves as much as we do. Wow, I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. I really want to give credit and a nod to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit for their investment in Derek. The USAMU is such a big part of this team with the training and support they provide athletes like Derek and so many others training there. There are many folks that share in this celebration!”
Once the commotion of earning the quotas had subsided, there was the title of 2019 Pan Am Games champion left to settle. Through 25 targets, Haldeman had missed four targets to Burrows’ five. The Sunbury, Ohio native still held a one-target advantage after the 35th target. But then Burrows would focus in and miss just remaining target out of the 15 he saw, while Haldeman couldn’t connect on four occasions and Burrows finished with a three-target edge and the gold medal.
The color of medals was the consolation prize for each of these distinguished athletes today, however, when a much larger goal had been fulfilled and with the pressure of an entire program hanging on every shot.
“Thank you to all of my family, friends and supporters,” said Burrows after the medal ceremony. “It’s an honor to represent our Country and this shooting community. We are honored to be here and humbled by all the support we’ve received to reach this goal. Onward to Tokyo!”
“Thanks to the USAMU, USA Shooting coaches and the best mixed team partner [Ashley Carroll] who challenges me every day,” Haldeman stated. “It was awesome to stand on the podium with my teammate and know we secured the quotas for Tokyo and Team USA.”
Both athletes will have little time to celebrate as they’ll be back in action Wednesday in the Mixed Team competition. Haldeman teaming with gold medalist and World Champion Ashley Carroll, a Solvang, California native, and Burrows partnering with U.S. Army Spc. Rachel Tozier, a Pattonsburg, Missouri native.
U.S. Army representation was everywhere in Lima Tuesday including on the 50-meter Rifle range as well where U.S. Army Spc. Tim Sherry (a Highlands Ranch, Colorado native) and two-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Michael McPhail (a Darlington, Wisconsin native) got the medal success started earlier in the Three-Position event. Sherry continued his stellar 2019 with a Pan Am Games record in Qualification of a 1181, 13 points higher than his next nearest competitor. He got there largely on the strength of his kneeling position, shooting 397, or nine points better than any of the other eventual Finalists.
Meanwhile, McPhail, who competed in Prone Rifle in Rio and London before it was eliminated from the Olympic program after 2016, qualified fourth with an 1158, tying one other competitor for the best prone total of 399 while having the fifth-best standing and 12th-best kneeling score.
That set up a promising duel between the two USAMU teammates in the Final. McPhail’s woes in kneeling during Qualification weren’t present during the Final and he jumped out to a 1.4 point advantage after stage one. That expanded to 4.1 after Prone, before Sherry’s standing strength was realized and the lead shrank to one point after the first five-shot series. Sherry grabbed the lead after the second five-shot series by one point and would expand that to 1.9 by the event’s conclusion. Earning the bronze was Mexico’s Jose Luis Sanchez.
“I'm very happy with today's match,” Sherry said. “I did exactly what I wanted during the qualification round and came away with a personal best! The Final had some rough patches, but I was able to grind it out and come away with the win. It was awesome to have my teammate, Sgt. 1st Class McPhail, on the podium as well. I'm really proud to have Team USA winning gold and silver in both Men's 3P and Trap today.”
McPhail had previously secured one of the Olympic quotas in this event while U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class George Norton did as well at the 2018 Championship of the Americas. The U.S. Rifle Team has now gone first and second in both Three-Position Rifle events with Air Rifle set to begin Thursday with Sherry set to compete in Men’s Air Rifle on Friday as well as the Mixed Team event Saturday.