There are many times in the course of one’s life where you give it all that you can and it is just not enough. Can you think of one? I have many. When I was younger, my older cousin was taller than the rest of us from an early age. We were at the local park playing basketball and I remember the first time he held up a basketball with one hand and he asked me to try and get it. Despite the nearly 2’ height difference, I could never jump all that high. After 23 attempts of jumping in the air, giving it all that I could, swatting at the ball, I accepted it was not meant to be.
The 2019 World Speed Shooting Championship was a very similar experience. I shot a near perfect match in rimfire rifle open. I only had to carry just one single pickup shot in the match. There were stages where I pushed my ‘Edge’ and others where I shot my 90-95% time with one stage being a 85% time (Roundabout). There is a lot that goes into match management. I have been shooting very well going into the match. Let me attempt to share some of my match management that lead to a World Record in Rimfire Rifle Open on Smoke and Hope and a 4th place finish overall; exactly 1 second behind the winner and new World Record total match time.
Showdown has been a good stage for me to start on, I have been shooting it well. When I walked up to the stage I knew this was going to set the stage for the match. I thought I needed to get things going with just one run. I then proceeded to do a mag dump after the buzzer went off with a 2.99. Then a shout from the crowd said, “When is Steve Foster going to shoot?”. I turned around and chuckled and then immediately posted a 1.69 and a 1.63. As I walked to the next shooting position I smiled and remembered to have fun and be grateful for the opportunity I have in front of me. I posted a 1.67 and then decided to shoot a quick one to build momentum into the next stage and shot a perfect 1.52.
Okay, not the stage where things can’t be won, but a lot can be lost; Smoke and Hope. After shooting a personal best of 5.25 at the 2019 Georgia State Steel Match I wanted to get a sub 6 second stage because this is something I have never done at a World Match before. Similar to Georgia, this just one stage could set the tone for a personal best overall time. Walking up to the line I was so pumped up you can see my legs bouncing ready for the buzzer to go off. When the timer first went off I was too hyped up and I was losing my sight picture so I made a slight adjustment and reacquired it scoring a 1.68. It was then I knew the exact zone I needed to be in. I shot a 1.56 and it felt effortless. It was the point where I was seeing the dot on every shot at an expeditious pace. I then said I have a little bit more. The buzzer went off and I knew it had a chance of being faster and I did not hear my time called out. I then though “oh no, did the timer not pick it up”? I turned around and asked for the time and the RO was staring off at the plates. She said “um, 1.51… she then said she could not believe I hit them all”. With a smile I said, “neither could I and let’s see if we could juice it up a bit”. I then posted a 1.47. An adrenaline rush came over me and I said I was going for it. The timer went off and I swung the gun hard and fast connecting one for one and I heard cheering in the background. I shot the fastest string time for the division of 1.42 and shot what looks to be a new World Record for RFRO at 5.96 seconds.
As I headed to Roundabout, with this in mind as I stepped up to my 7th stage I knew I had to keep the car between the ditches to score strong. I tried to squeeze in just one last practice session Thursday night prior to leaving for the match. For some reason I have not felt comfortable shooting Roundabout. Well, the truth is I feel that I should be shooting it quicker than I have and I have been innately pushing my past my Edge and panic has been setting in. This practice session was probably the worst practice session I have had in three years. So, I shot a 85% run or so of 1.65 seconds and it felt good! Then, I said I am going to shoot just one run of 100% and see what I could do to push the pace. Needless to say, it was a trainwreck at 3.21 seconds. It was then I knew I had to coast this one in and go one for one then shooting a 1.81. Okay, now we are back to a comfortable highway speed I slowly pressed on the gas and shot a 1.72 and it seemed effortless. Well, just one more string and I can reload and head to the finish line so I opened the throttle and shot a 95% run at 1.62.
I did not know exactly where my time was at but suspected it was in the 64-65 range I knew I had to have a decent stage to contend for first place. I walked up to Five to Go with a lot going through my mind. Just one more strategy to determine how things were going to end up for me this year. I decided to push the pace on the first string with the sun cresting between the 4th plate and the stop plate. Well, with three make-up shots and scoring a 2.82 was not what I had seen in my mind’s eye. I then calmly reset and shot a 90% string of 2.08. Now I have my confidence back in what I was seeing I said out loud, now I just have to do that again. Uncanny enough it was another 2.08. I then may a calculated risk to push a 100% sub 2 second run to have a shot at taking the title because I knew it was going to be that close and I had two make-up shots with a miss. For the last string of fire at the match I knew I was not going to go ultra conservative and shot my best time of the stage of 2.06 for a total of 9.04.
When everything was tallied I had shot a new personal best time in RFRO of 65.45 seconds. To reach this level of personal accomplishment at the largest Steel Challenge Match ever attended was a very humbling experience. This time ended up earning me a 4th Place finish overall which is something I am very proud of. Admittedly, I have had thoughts about just one less miss, just one less pickup shot, just one better stage management plan… But, my focus has changed to just one plan to be the first to shoot sub 60!
See you out on the range soon!