The Column, No. 46:
The 2009 United States F-Class Open Rifle Team
Right up front, it must be said that our family are biased towards F-Class open shooting and the individuals on the American team. We have shot with many of them at the 2007 U.S. Nationals in Raton, and over the past two years have developed some close and enduring friendships. That being said, you must forgive us for extolling their virtues as well as that of F-Class shooting. During the past two years, many of the team members (and some shooters who could not go due to the recession) have encouraged our daughter and followed her success in college. As parents, that really gives you a “warm and fuzzy” feeling towards these folks.
For example, the famous J.J. Conway, who is now retired from active shooting, has called and written letters of encouragement to Susannah. And Alan Warner, former coach and armorer to the 2005 team, stays in contact on a regular basis. Bob Bock (2007 US National champ and 2009 Team captain) is always there with his words of encouragement and advice. And of course, Shiraz Balolia (2008 & 2009 Washington State Champion and 2009 Team vice Captain), who always has a smile on his face with words of encouragement for all. We could go on and on, but you get the idea. The folks who shoot F-Class are like a close family, albeit with some differences, but always with the same goals and objectives… to promote F-Class shooting and sportsmanship across the country.
A classic example of the sportsmanship displayed by the US shooters occurred at the 2007 US Nationals at the NRA Whittington Center, Raton, NM. The winds were pretty tough at Raton, and even the most experienced shooters were having some problems. Susannah was shooting at her first major competition, and doing quite well. She was shooting against an entire line of veteran shooters. After the first relay at 1,000 yards, Alan Warner came off the line, and put his arm on Sus’ shoulder and whispered in her ear how the winds were changing and how to compensate when she went to the line for the second relay. Now realize, they were competing against each other. She had a chance to move ahead of him. But, Alan didn’t care, he just wanted her to be successful. On that relay she set a new junior NRA record and was higher in standings than a stack of veterans. Alan has probably forgotten that moment, but we haven’t because it speaks highly of him and the sportsmanship of American shooters. That being said, let’s look at the 2009 United States F-Class Open Team in the composite photo:
The following are brief bios of each member from the official F-Class Open Rifle Team website:
Robert Bock, Captain - A mechanical engineer with a lot of knowledge of electronics, Bob was born in Hungary and moved to the US in 1964. He has been involved in all kinds of shooting including pistol silhouettes, IPSIC and combat sniper rifle in various parts of the country. He has been involved in F-Class shooting since 2001. He was a member of the 2005 US F-Class Team and placed 7th in the individual World Championship, plus was a member of the 4 man team that won the Rutland Cup at the World Championship in South Africa. Bob also won the McDonald Stewart Grand Aggregate in the F-Class final of the 2007 Canadian Fullbore Championship and won the 2007 US F-Class Open National Championship in Raton. He is currently semi-retired and lives in New York.
Shiraz Balolia, Vice Captain - Shiraz Balolia lives with his family in Bellingham, WA and operates Grizzly Industrial, Inc. (grizzly.com) which he founded in Bellingham in 1983. Born and raised in Kenya, Shiraz moved to North America in the early 70's and has been shooting for 35 years. He is the current Washington State Champion, having also won the title in 2008, and holds several national records in F-Class shooting. Although his first 1000 yard match was at the 2006 F-Class Nationals in Sacramento, Shiraz has made a very quick progression through the ranks in long range shooting. His other hobbies include saltwater fishing for salmon and halibut, crabbing, building guitars, metalworking and playing racquet sports, all of which take a back seat to shooting!
Mid Tompkins, Head Coach - Mid was born in Long Beach, CA and started shooting small bore at the age of 12. He then changed to highpower in 1955 and won the first of six National Championships in 1958. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1959 and competed on the Air Force Team for 4 years. After graduating from the University of California at Long Beach, Mid did property management until he retired in 1988. Mid has been a firing member, coach and captain of 17 previous Palma Teams and won the World F-Class Championship in 2005. He has also been a member of the U.S. Veterans and F-Class Teams. Mid is married to Nancy Gallagher-Tompkins and has 2 step daughters, Sherri and Michelle. Nancy and Michelle are firing members on the current U.S. Palma Team and Sherri was the winner of the World Long Range Championship in 2003 in Bisley, England.
Bob Mead, Coach - In 1994, Bob retired from a career in heavy highway construction, and he currently manages the family farms. Bob, a distinguished rifleman, was a coach on the 2007 Palma Team. He has successfully competed individually and as a target rifle and F-Class coach on the state, regional, national and international levels. Bob has won several state long range championships with the Palma rifle, along with winning the Zinsmaster Memorial Match and placing 2nd in the Midwest Palma. As a coach, Bob has been a four time winner of the U.S. Nationals Roumanian Trophy Palma Team Match, a six time winner of the U.S. Nationals Herrick Trophy Palma Team Match, and a two time winner of the U.S. Nationals Port Clinton Trophy. Bob is a coach for Team Berger, winners of the 2006 U.S. F-Class Nationals and many other state and regional matches. He coached the winning U.S. team at the 2006 Canadian F-Class International Invitational Match. They won both phases and the overall team aggregate. Bob coached the winning F-Class team at the 2007 Irish Challenge and the 2008 European Union/U.S.A. Challenge. At the 2005 F-Class World Championships in South Africa, Bob coached the team that won the Rutland Cup. Bob enjoys playing poker, and the challenges involved with coaching! He also accompanies his wife of 36 years and #1 fan, Patricia, on many genealogical research trips. Bob is extremely proud to be a coach on the U.S. F-Class Open Rifle Team.
Nancy Gallagher-Tompkins, Coach - Nancy Tompkins lives in Prescott, Arizona with her husband, Mid. She is the mother of Michelle Gallagher (member of the 2007 Palma Team and five times Wimbledon Champion) and Sherri Gallagher-Hurd (current World Long Range Champion and 2007 U-25 Team). Nancy has been on six Palma Teams since 1985. Her major accomplishments include four times National Long Range Champion, National High Power Champion, five times Leech Cup winner and numerous other awards. She shoots a Stolle Panda action, a Kreiger barrel and an Anschultz trigger.
Jim Murphy - A retired machinist-tool and die maker of forty-one years, Jim and his wife Connie live in Owensboro, Kentucky. He began shooting small bore while in high school and started shooting High Power in 1984, earning his Distinguished Badge in 1990. Jim was the Kentucky State Long Range Champion in 2000, 2003 and 2004. Jim started shooting F-Class in 2004 and was the Kentucky State F-Class Champion in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He was a member of the 2005 U.S. F-Class Team and placed 4th in the individual World Championship in South Africa. He was the F-Class Canadian Open Champion in 2005 and 2006, BCRA Grand Aggregate Champion 2007, Pacific Canadian American International Champion 2007 and the F-Class Champion at the 2007 Spirit of America matches in Raton. Jim was a member of the U.S. Goodwill Team in Scotland and Ireland in 2007 and has placed in the top seven of all five U.S. F-Class Nationals. He also enjoys doing his own gunsmithing, playing racquetball and golf.
Larry Bartholome - Larry lives in El Paso, TX with his wife. He is retired and is enjoying it. Over the years he has held a number of National and State records and Championships in Metallic Silhouette rifle, NMC, 1K BR and F-Class. Larry started shooting shotgun competitively in 1963. In '66 he branched out into small-bore, then in '68 while in Germany he took up international trap, running bore, hunting style competition and air rifle. On his return to the USA in '69 he continued shooting trap and took up live pigeon and Metallic Silhouette shooting. In 1971 he tried his hand at NMC course shooting and made Distinguished Rifleman firing in only three leg matches. He gave up NMC in '76 when he went back to Germany. In 1993 he was induced to try NMC again and in '96 he got the Palma bug. In 1999 he tested the 1,000 Benchrest waters by setting a World light-gun record during the NBRSA National Championships. The same year he tried F-Class for the first time and fell in love with it. In 2000 he attended the DCRA matches in Ottawa, Canada and participated in a meeting where the possibility of an F-Class World Championships was discussed. He decided to get a team organized for the 2002 World Championships and served as the team adjutant as the team won the Gold Medal, while placing 2nd in the individual World Championships. The rest is history. He was the 2005 U.S. Team Captain for the Second World Championships in South Africa where he placed 2nd again.
Jeff Cochran - Since taking up F-Class in 2000, Jeff has won numerous state and regional titles as well as the US F-Class Nationals in 2005. He is a member of the current US National Championship F-Class team and was part of the US Goodwill team that competed in Scotland and Ireland in 2007. Jeff is 43 and has been an automotive technician for 20+ years. He lives in Roanoke Texas with his wife Stacy and their son Jacob.
John Brewer - John is a long time resident of Jackson, Mississippi where he currently lives with his wife and dogs. Prior to retirement in 1985 he was a geologist by degree and a computer salesman by trade. He was an active shooter in NMC, winning numerous awards including being a member of the President’s 100 at Camp Perry, Ohio and getting the Distinguished Rifleman award in 1990. Since shooting F-class, he has been an active member of the national F-Class team and was a member of the 1st international Championship team. John won the 1st individual National U. S. Championship in 2004. He holds several national records in F-Class and won Spirit of America in 2002. He has represented the U.S. on teams in Canada, South Africa, Scotland, and Ireland. Simply put, he is a darn good shooter!
Eric Bair - An excellent marksman and a well known competitive shooter, Eric Bair won the US F-Class National Championship in 2006 held in Sacramento. Eric was also on the 2005 US F-Class Team that shot at the World Championship in South Africa.
Robert Bock Jr, MD, Team Physician - Doctor Bock is the Team physician for the U.S. Team. A practicing physician in New Jersey, he currently has an office based practice and a home-visit practice for home bound elderly patients. He lives in Wayne, New Jersey with his wife and 2 children. He began shooting at an early age with his father. Dr. Bock was the IHMSA junior .22 champion of Wisconsin in 1982. During the past ten years most of his shooting was in tactical rifle matches, many of which he won. This includes High Civilian in the annual Carlos Hathcock Match put on by the department of New Jersey Marine Corps League. F-Class became his new focus as of late and Dr. Bock won the 1000 yard portion of the F-class New York State high-power match in Albany in 2008. While shooting in the F-Class nationals in Lodi, WI in 2008 he was on the team that won the EU-USA challenge match.
Mike Downey - Mike Downey hails from Austin, Texas and has quickly made a name for himself in long range shooting in just a few short years. He set the National record in F-Class at 1000 yards with a score of 199 and placed 2nd overall at the 2008 F-Class National Championship in Lodi, Wisconsin. Mike has become a valued member of the US F-Class Open Rifle Team.
Jeff Traylor - Jeff Traylor is 44 years old, lives in Petersburg, IN, and is an industrial electrician at Whirlpool Corp. He started shooting F-Class in 2001 and has won multiple state championships including Kentucky and Tennessee State titles. He is a member of the Spindle Shooters Rifle Team that recently won the 4-man team event at the 2008 F-Class Nationals in Lodi. This team also set new 600 yard and 1,000 yard national records under the coaching of SFC Emil Praslick, III.
Bryan Otey - A native of New Hampshire, Bryan lives in Canterbury with his wife and son, and their two basset hounds. Bryan is a software development manager for Autodesk, an international engineering software company. He has been shooting high power rifle since 1978 and represented the New Hampshire Junior Team at Camp Perry in 1979 and 1980. After a mid 1980s accident, Bryan was forced to turn away from competitive shooting, but focused instead on archery, trapshooting, and hunting. Bryan has developed 2 wildcats (308 Otey & 358 Otey), and in 2005, Bryan and his son where featured in a professional hunting video on bow hunting in Africa. With the introduction of F-Class, and after nearly three decades away from the sport, Bryan’s interest in long range shooting was reignited in July of 2007.
Dean Morris - Dean was born in Houston, Texas in 1977. In 1979 he moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma with his family where he remained until 1997 when he moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to go to Paramedic school where he now resides. He has been employed by the Oklahoma City Fire Department since 1999 and does part time work as a paramedic and teacher teaching paramedic classes. Dean first began shooting his .22 rifle on his family's farm when he was 10 years old. He began shooting at local 600 yard F-Class matches in 2004. His first regional and national competition was in 2007. At 31, he is the youngest member of the team and in his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, hunting, fishing, and riding ATVs.
Larry Taite - Larry Taite was born in West Covina, California and raised in Huntington Beach, California. He is 51 years old, single and currently works for the City of Huntington Beach (City) in the Public Works Department as a Civil Engineering Assistant. He has worked for the City for approximately 30 years. Larry has a daughter & son (Mystie & Mark), and two grandsons (Triston and Hudson). Larry was introduced to shooting as a teen by his oldest brother (Buck) and began competitive shooting in 2004. Larry coached high school basketball at Huntington Beach High School and enjoys all sports, martial arts (Kenpo), camping, fishing, dirt and street bike riding, relaxing at the beach, competitive shooting and at the top of his list; family.
David Gosnell - David is 49 years old and has three children and one granddaughter. He lives in Houston, Texas and has been in the oil field service business for 27 years.
David Bailey - David hails from Quitman, Texas and has been shooting long range for several years.
There you have it, an American team that truly represents a cross-section of the United States. All superb shooters, all good sports, and all ready to challenge the South Africans (and everyone else) for the 2009 F-Class Open World Championships. I wish that I could be there with them because the matches promise to be the best in the history of long distance competitive shooting.
Although most observers believe that the toughest competitors will be the Team USA and the South African Protea Team, I would definitely not count out the British, Irish or German teams. From their perspective, the South Africans and Americans are just another bunch of shooters that they have to best during the competition. Everyone wants the gold, but in the end, there can be only one 2009 F-Class Open World Champion. And, we will have to wait until July to find out who it will be. However, no matter who wins, the shooters will still remain good sports and good friends. Good luck to all.
Copyright 2009 by Jim Clary. All rights reserved.