Sarah: The stages at this year’s Nationals were quite difficult. There were lots of partial targets, no-shoots, and long distance targets. However, my favorite stage was probably stage 17, Crossed Up & Out. It was a 22-round speed shoot that required precise movements and fast target acquisition.
WoUSPSA: We would have loved to see you shoot that one! What do you think of the range/match location? Do you like the back-to-back format?
Sarah: The range is set up well. Since the bays are somewhat spread out, I like that competitors are able to drive between the different sections of bays. Also, the range is very scenic. The overall match location is great. Flights to Las Vegas are easy to acquire, and the airport isn’t far from the hotels. Also, the range wasn’t too far from the match hotel. This year I got lucky with the back-to-back format because I ended up having a 4-day weekend towards the end of Nationals. This minimized the amount of school I had to miss to shoot the Nationals. So, I do like the back-to-back format because it makes it easier to attend both matches.
WoUSPSA: You just started college after being named salutatorian for your high school graduation. We’re so proud of you! You’ve had a very busy summer with shooting, but now you are hitting the books. Has it been a challenge to prepare for shooting two very different divisions (revolver & open) while adjusting to life as a college student?
Sarah: Now that I’ve started college, it was a huge challenge to prepare for the Nationals this year. The work load of my school is already overwhelming, and I had to miss 3 days of classes to shoot the match. The week leading up to the Nationals, I had to complete two weeks of homework instead of preparing for the match. I even arrived in Las Vegas late Friday night then had to shoot Saturday morning. Overall, I was not well prepared for the match.
WoUSPSA: We so admire you for your ambition … you undoubtedly have a full plate! And on top of all that, we understand you also made your college rifle team. Congrats! Tell us about try outs. Did your competition experience in USPSA help you with this selection?
Sarah: Thank you! About 40 students showed up at tryouts. There were only 4 or 5 spots available on the team. On the first day of tryouts, we were instructed to shoot 3-shot groups from the prone position using an air rifle. After the first day, the coach narrowed it down to about 10 students. For the first part of day 2, we did 3-shot groups from the standing position, again using an air rifle. The second part of day 2 was a personal interview with the coach. For my interview, I described my competition handgun experience. I do believe that my experience in USPSA helped me with the selection.
WoUSPSA: That’s awesome! : ) Now, how would you describe your performances at each of the Nationals?
Sarah: Overall, I was happy with my performances. In last year’s open match, I won 1 of the stages between the ladies. This year, I was able to win 3. I saw this year’s open nationals as an improvement from the 2009 match, so I was happy with my open match performance. For revolver, I just wanted to finish the match safely. I didn’t go into the revolver match with any specific performance goals. I ended up second lady, which I was very happy with.
WoUSPSA: You competed in the Open Division for the first match. How hard was it to adjust to iron sights and a wheel gun for the second match?
Sarah: It was very hard to switch between open and revolver in such a short amount of time. I had never practiced such an abrupt open to revolver transition before, so it was a shock on the first day of the revolver match. On day one of the second match, I was still mentally focused on the Open Nationals. I tried shooting my revolver like an open gun, which just doesn’t work. Everything about the revolver game is different.
WoUSPSA: Agreed – couldn’t be more opposite. When did you start training for the Nationals, and how much was range time compared to dry firing?
Sarah: I spent little time practicing for the Nationals. Since I’ve been at school, I haven’t had time for live fire practice. Also, I don’t have my equipment with me so I couldn’t dry fire either. I was able to do some airsoft practice in the weeks leading up to Nationals though. As a member of the rifle team, I was able to use the indoor range on campus to practice.
WoUSPSA: That’s a nice perk! You shoot as a family with your Mom and Dad. What is it like shooting together?
Sarah: Shooting with my family is a unique experience. When we all shoot revolver (like we did at this year’s Nationals), we sometimes have our own competition, seeing who will come out on top between our family. They help me a lot when it comes to revolver shooting because they have been squadded with many great revolver shooters. However when we’re shooting in different divisions at a major match, I’ll often go on a different squad because my parents almost always shoot with primarily revolver squads.
WoUSPSA: Did you learn anything about yourself as a competitor at the match?
Sarah: I learned that I need to work more on the mental aspect of the game. On one of the stages at the open match, I had an equipment problem (my sight came loose), and I let this affect me too much on the remaining stages that day.
WoUSPSA: Sorry to hear that … equipment issues can be tough to overcome. Do you lift weights or do grip strengthening exercises to specifically build your muscles used in shooting? What other kinds of physical training do you do?
Sarah: I currently don’t do separate physical training for shooting. However, I played softball in high school which kept me in shape. Softball also helped a lot with sprint speed and explosive movements which are very useful in USPSA shooting. Currently, I’m training for rifle shooting, which is helping with upper body strength.
WoUSPSA: To stay energized, what is your snack and beverage of choice on the range?
Sarah: For snacks, I usually have pretzels and Clif Bars. My range bag has a built-in “CamelBack” type hydration system, so I usually fill that with water and drink it at the range.
WoUSPSA: Very cool – we like! Why do you think the participation is low for women in the Revolver Division and what can we do to change that?
Sarah: Participation for women in the revolver division is probably low because the revolver division is difficult to be successful in. Also, some women find the long trigger pull of the revolver to be too difficult. To change this, we should continue to publicize the women that currently shoot revolver.
WoUSPSA: As someone who has competed in both Open and Revolver Divisions, do you think USPSA and match directors do a good job of making the courses of fire friendly for all divisions?
Sarah: USPSA match directors usually do a good job of making the courses of fire friendly for all divisions. Occasionally, there will be a course that is extremely difficult to shoot using a revolver. However, stage breakdown is a major part of revolver shooting, so this just adds to the challenge of this division.
WoUSPSA: Nice, positive outlook! : ) Was this your last major match of the year or do you have more competitions on your schedule?
Sarah: Nationals was my last major match of the year. I’ll be shooting throughout the winter, but it will be for NCAA rifle.
WoUSPSA: Good luck with those events, Sarah! With the match season rather lengthy, how do you typically unwind after your last match of the year?
Sarah: After matches settle down, I always continue with my academic work. In the spring, before the season is in full-swing again, I usually play another sport. In high school, I played on the varsity softball team, and in college, I’ll be playing lacrosse.
WoUSPSA: Another new challenge - exciting! If you weren’t a competitive shooter, what do you think you would be doing?
Sarah: If I weren’t a competitive shooter, I’d have a similar life to the one I live now. I’d still be going to school for a degree in chemical engineering. Right now, shooting is more of a hobby because of the time commitment throughout college.
WoUSPSA: Chemical Engineering - We love and respect your priorities, Sarah! So, do you have any other special talents or skills that you would like to share with us?
Sarah: I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute!
WoUSPSA: You’re amazing, indeed! When you aren’t on the road or at the range, what’s one of your favorite activities to do at home?
Sarah: When I’m at home, I like being outdoors and playing some video games in my free time. At school, I like spending time with all of the girls on my floor.
WoUSPSA: What advice would you give to any new shooters, especially juniors starting out, even though you’re not a USPSA junior anymore?
Sarah: New shooters should always stick with it! When you first start out, shooting USPSA can be very intimidating, especially as a junior. Other shooters are always willing to help juniors, so ask questions too!
WoUSPSA: Great advice … Wrapping up, how did you and your family celebrate your awesome finish at the USPSA Revolver Nationals?
Sarah: We actually didn’t celebrate much after the awards ceremony. Unfortunately, I had an early morning flight the next day back to school.
WoUSPSA: Big congrats again, Sarah and best of luck with your studies. We so appreciate your time!
Unfortunately, we don’t have any footage of Sarah from the Nationals, as she was in the Revolver squad, but here is a clip of her shooting this year’s Steel Challenge. Her footage begins at 2:25 seconds. Check it out – she’s so FAST!