Two Grand Agg wins clinches title of Tennessee State Champion for Matthew Keller

Back Row L to R) Steve Lee, Terry Leonard, Jeff Summers, Wayne Campbell, Andy Shifflet, Brady Knight, Johnnie Stewart
Front Row (L to R) Matthew Keller, Dan Honert, Roy Darnell, Scott Roeder, Dale Rose

On June 18thand 19th2011, Unaka Rod and Gun Club in Johnson City, TN hosted the Tennessee State Championship.  Benchrest shooters from all across the southeast showed up to try to take the title from 2010 Tenn. State Champion Jeff Summers, a TN resident.  The two previous years the title was taken by Alabama shooter and former Super Shoot winner Billy Stevens.  So, to keep the title in Tennessee we had to use our secret weapon- rain, rain, and more rain.  (The raindrops here are trained to hit the bullets of the competition, not our own)  At one point, the rain was blowing in from the front and several shooters put small sandwich bags over their muzzle.  Smiley didn’t have a sandwich bag so he laid a piece of shag rug or something over his muzzle.  When shooting resumed,everyone took their sandwich bags off…  Smiley forgot his.  And when he fired it went flying down range looking like he just shot a chicken!  The firing line erupted with laughter.  Fortunately the bullet hit in his sighter target and did him no harm.  The wailing wall was a place of cheers and jeers all weekend as the lead switched back and forth.  The competition was tight.  Although it rained most of the weekend, all the shooters were in a jolly mood and having a good time.  The target crew had a miserable time in the pouring down rain, but they did a good job of getting the targets changed and keeping them as dry as possible.  The target crew were all volunteers and what they get is tips from the shooters.  They were very pleased with the generosity of the shooters this year.

Saturday afternoon started off in beautiful weather with the LV100.  Record-holder Johnnie Stewart used a new gun that he purchased at the Super Shoot this year to take 3rd place with a .2048. Scott Roeder used one of the prettiest Terry Leonard stocked guns you'll ever see to shoot a great agg of .1834 for 2nd place.  But Wayne Campbell used one of the ugliest guns you'll ever see to shoot the small group of .072 and win the agg with a .1764. 

Towards the end of lunch, we heard some big "Oh $#!+s" from our more technologically advanced shooters who looked on their smart phones and seen a nasty front gettin' ready to cream us all.  So everyone buckled down their tents and tables, got the raingear out, and we started the HV100 that afternoon before we got hit.  Andy Shifflett used his zero group on the first match to nail down 3rd place (.2286).  Wayne Campbell steamrolled all over Andy taking 2nd place by .0002" (.2284).  And it was Matthew Keller who was singing in the rain winning the HV100 with a .2086.  After the 100 yard stage, Wayne Campbell was sittin' pretty atop the board with Matthew Keller and Dwight St. Romain sittin' respectively in 2nd and 3rd. 

Day two (the 200 yard stage) would be a different story.  It only took one or two targets before we got news that we were about to be hit again by a nastier front.  So anchored down again, we pressed on in the wind and the rain, and it made for a different story.  Steve Lee came up strong with a .2428 and 3rd place.  Doughnut eatin' machine David Conder from North Carolina finished 2nd (.2266).  But it was a Tennessee Yanki-billy name of Dan Honert who strutted his stuff with a win in the HV200. (.2209) 

With multiple rain drops being hit and raining havoc on targets, the 2-gun was shaping up to be a different critter than how the day started.  But fretting not was Shady Brady Knight who finished 3rd in the muck with a .2622.  Roy Darnell stayed consistent and ground out the conditions for a 2nd place finish.  (.2607)  Amongst us though was only one shooter who made the nastiest of conditions look real easy, and that was Terry Leonard, who blasted the field in vengeful fashion with a .1862.  Terry had one unfortunate target the day before that would basically knock him out of the two-gun.  I don't think Terry took that to well, and just gave everyone a beating on Sunday afternoon just to let everyone know that he is still the man..  (the Tennessee State Champion would like to personally thank him for that target, as Terry is always a tough competitor to beat, and could have very well took the whole thing had it not been for that target)

The Grands are always the models of consistency and in this weather, the trick was just don't shoot that big one.  And in the LV grand, 2010 Tennessee State Champion Jeff Summers personified the same in 3rd place. (.2585)  Johnnie Stewart probably feeling very sound about his latest benchrest investment took home 2nd place. (.2553)  The winner of the LV Grand for the second year in a row was Matthew Keller with a .2375.  Surviving in the HV Grand, Steve Lee stayed tough to grab 3rd place. (.2470).  World Team member Andy Shifflett displayed a few of his talents to own 2nd place with a .2398.  With another consistent showing, Matthew Keller won the HV Grand sporting an agg of .2334.

Last year was a delve away from the norm as the Tennessee State Championship actually stayed in Tennessee!  It was Jeff Summers who nearly pulled it off again, but still stayed steady and finished an impressive 3rd. (.2635)  Andy Shifflett, who started to make a mighty run towards the end, lead the representation of the Virginia shooters with a strong 2nd place finish and really laid a smackdown by .0001" on Jeff with a .2634.  The Tennessee State Champion this year was one who never shot that big group, always lived to fight another day after each group, and sprinkled in one or two small ones to seal the deal.  The Tennessee State Championship stayed at home again this year with a 2-gun win by 24 year old Matthew Keller, who shot an overall agg of .2355. 

Norman E. Jones


End of an Era:

For those who have been shooting Unaka, you are probably well aware that they are very well run in every way and is generally one of the most enjoyable matches to shoot in the Southeast region.  Nearly all of this is attributed to Norman Jones, and his organizing and constant hard work.  Ever since taking over for Jerry Ewing 6 years ago, he has held a high standard for these matches, and it has been upheld in every way under Norman's tenure.  This match is the last match that Norman will be directing, and he will be handing it off to yours truly, Matthew Keller.  I for one want to personally thank Papaw for all the hard work and effort he has put into these matches.  This match is held in an area that is a pivotal point of the Southeast region and to have it go away would certainly be a shame.  His example will certainly be used in all future matches in the area.  If you see Papaw at a match, just take the time to give him a handshake and thank him for his hard work as these matches have always been spectacular.

Thanks to the Earps for being a big part of this match and helping it to be as well run as it is.  You all are a special group and we hope you continue to be a part of it in the future.  Thanks again to all the shooters who participated and we'll see ya the next time!

Matthew S Keller


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