COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Army News Service, Feb. 23, 2007) - Kicking off the 2007 World Cup season, Team USA athletes hosted a successful Rocky Mountain Rifle Championship Feb. 14-18 at the U.S. Olympic Shooting Center. The test match showed that America's riflemen and women are set to take on the world in the year before the 2008 Olympic Games.

Marking big finishes were Olympic Gold Medalist Matt Emmons of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Sgt. 1st Class Jason A. Parker and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas A. Tamas, both of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. For the women's squad, the team effort was apparent as the USA took top honors in all the women's events.

In Men's Air Rifle, the USA dominated all three podium spots. Emmons took the lead early shooting a 599 in his first round. In round two he notched a 598, and a finals shoot of 104.2 guaranteed him the title. Following in second were fellow riflemen Parker and Ryan Tanoue of Honolulu, Hawaii, who shot a total of 1295.5 and 1291.0 respectively.

Emmons also flexed his muscle in the three-position, scoring 20 points ahead of the world's No. 1 ranked riflemen in the event, Artem Khadjibekov of Russia. Yet, the match was energized by Parker and Valerian Sauveplane of France. The two shot overall totals of 2449.8 to force a shoot-off, but it was Sauveplane who took advantage of the opportunity and finished .7 points ahead of the Parker.

Prone kicked-off with a bang as Tamas shot a perfect 600 in his first round, giving the USAMU athlete the lead in the finals. He scored a 1302.7 to take the top of the podium ahead of Russia's Khadjibekov.

Earlier in the event Tamas also won the top shoot-out, where all of the men's highly ranked prone shooters came together in the spirit of sport. He defeated both Khadjibekov and one of his own personal rivals, Israel's Guy Starik. Starik, ranked No. 3 in the world in prone, went head-to-head with Tamas at the 2006 World Cup Finals, but Tamas took him in the finals shoot-off to earn the Silver Medal. Tamas is currently ranked sixth by the International Shooting Sports Federation.

Not to be forgotten, the U.S. Women's Rifle Team scored big at the Rocky Mountain Rifle Championship. Jamie Beyerle of Lebanon, Pa., won the Women's Three Position event, and Emily Caruso of Stamford, Conn., shooting in competition for the first time since scoring a perfect 400 in December, won Women's Air Rifle.

The highest ranked shooter in the Women's Three Position, Beyerle, who is sixth in the world in the event heading into this year's World Cup season, met expectations by taking the golden step. Junior Amanda Furrer of Spokane, Wash., earned second place with 1252.4, just 6.4 points off the top position. One of the only international women to take a spot on the podium, Sandra Graziolin of France secured third.

Furrer dictated the results in the Junior Division, shooting a1252.4. She was more than 10 points ahead of Sandra Fong of New York City, N.Y., who shot a 1240.7. Fong's sister, Abigail, also of New York, finished third for the juniors with a 1239.0.

In Air Rifle, Emily Caruso shot consistent 397 scores in both round one and two, before shooting a 104.4 in the finals. Her overall total of 898.4 was enough to hold off teammate Beyerle. Beyerle slid past Shannon Wilson of Fairfax, Va., who shot a 893.4 total to Beyerle's 893.7. Rising junior riflewoman Jessica Jasis of Dycusburg, Ky., led the juniors in Air Rifle, followed by Amanda Furrer and Abigail Fong.

Men's top junior finishes included a high ranking for Thomas Santelli of Washington, Pa., in Air Rifle. Santelli shot more than 12 points better than his category with a 1279.9, with Scott Franz of Livermore, Colo., following in second. Andrew Roland of Lake Oswego, Ore., took third. Santelli secured his lead in the first round, scoring 10 points higher than any other junior.

The threesome flip-flopped for the Junior Men's Three Position event. Franz bettered Santelli by 2.1 points for a total of 2385.8. Roland again took third with a 2365.7.

Junior Men's Prone shooter Cody Rutter of Palmyra, Pa., squeaked by Santelli for the highest junior score. Rutter shot a 1179 and Santelli pegged a 1178. Franz finished third with 1177 points.

Designed as a test event to help kick off the World Cup season for Team USA, the Rocky Mountain Rifle Championships tout a who's who among international riflemen and women. With Team USA's finest at the helm, a total of six nations were represented this year, rounded out by Belarus, Canada, France, Israel and Russia. The data gathered on U.S. athletes who shot the match will assist in the overall selection for the upcoming World Cup season.

(Najasila Campbell writes for USA Shooting.)