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Published: 8/9/2009

Fremont marksman doesn't let disease stop him

Oregon resident and Air Force cadet Mike Seery, foreground, won the national collegiate title in smallbore or .22 rifle at the National Matches at Camp Perry. Fremont's Greg Drown, along with twin sons Dillon, left, and Tyler, shows his championship plaque. Oregon resident and Air Force cadet Mike Seery, foreground, won the national collegiate title in smallbore or .22 rifle at the National Matches at Camp Perry. Fremont's Greg Drown, along with twin sons Dillon, left, and Tyler, shows his championship plaque.
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Fremont marksman Greg Drown has fired his way to a national championship at Camp Perry in the difficult discipline of three-position smallbore or .22 rifle, and he did it from a wheelchair.

Drown, who copes with multiple sclerosis, scored 1195-73X out of a possible 1200 among 324 competitors to win the any-sight smallbore competition in what is called "3P" - standing, kneeling and prone positions. Any-sight is half of the overall three-position championship, which derives from combined scores of metallic-sight and any-sight events.

By rule, Drown is allowed to use what are called adaptive positions to compete from a wheelchair. "I developed multiple sclerosis gradually between 1995 and 2000. It was a shock," said Drown, 49, in an interview with the National Rifle Association, one of the hosts of the annual National Rifle and Pistol Matches at Camp Perry.

But with the encouragement of family, friends and a chance meeting in 2001 with a policeman - Detective Brooks Harris of the Nashville police department - he continued a shooting career begun as a teenager. Harris inspired Drown to resume competitive shooting and serve as a role model for others.

For standing position, Drown holds a hefty .22 target rifle without support, just like ambulatory shooters. For prone position, when others are on their stomachs and well-braced, he is allowed to shoot from a special table attached to his wheelchair, both elbows braced. For kneeling, he is allowed to rest one elbow, much as other shooters brace one elbow on a knee.

"He works every day and is the most upbeat guy you ever want to meet," said Rick Kusmer. He works in Fremont at Mosser Construction, Inc., with Drown, who is in charge of masonry operations.

"He shot for Ohio State in college," added Kusmer, "and was the captain of the rifle team in his junior and senior years. They won the Big Ten three out of four years. Greg tried out for the Olympics [1984] and in fact was asked to compete at their tryouts." Kusmer also noted that Drown was an avid triathlon athlete.

"He never stopped shooting and as you can see he is pretty good at it."

Indeed. Just last month Drown won the Ohio outdoor three-position championship, also at Camp Perry. He competes in both the central and northwest Ohio rifle leagues.

His shooting has become a family affair that includes his wife, Terri, twin 12-year-old sons, Dillon and Tyler, and 10-year-old daughter Jessica. At a match, they change targets for him and carry equipment to and from the firing line.

"My family is a huge help," he said.

Though he has won his share of state and regional titles, Drown said, "this was a surprise." The typically hot, muggy days on the Camp Perry range during the National Matches each summer challenge all shooters, but because of MS, Drown also has to fight against the fatigue the disease brings on. "It plays havoc on the body."

But this summer's cooler weather was an unexpected bonus for him.

"It was one of those things. I was doing really well this year. I'm always up there to do the best that I can."

Michael K. Seery of Oregon has joined Drown in the ranks of champions at the National Matches, recently winning the collegiate title in the prone smallbore matches.

Seery, a second-year cadet at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, already has returned there.

"It was so good being out at Camp Perry and watching him shoot," said his mom, Heidi Wyse-Seery. "We had him [home] one day and he went back."

Seery, 18, fired a combined score of 4773-285X to take the prone title among collegiate competitors in the prone smallbore matches. His dad, Michael L. Seery, said the academy brought in a new rifle coach, former Olympic smallbore gold medalist Launi Meili, in part because of Mike. "He committed to Air Force to shoot."

In 2007 at age 16, Seery fired his way to the sharpshooter division's intermediate junior/sub-junior class title in the three-position metallic sight competition at the National Matches.

In 2006 he won the titles of junior champion in smallbore three-position and smallbore prone at the Ohio state matches at Camp Perry. Even then, he had his sights set on qualifying for the Air Force Academy.

And in the small world department, Seery knows Fremont's Greg Drown, the three-position any-sight champion.

"Mike is a good friend of Greg," added his mom. "Greg is a wonderful young guy and great shooter, who has had to overcome great disabilities to continue shooting. His twin boys took turns providing support for him during the matches."

The overall national champion in three-position smallbore at the National Matches was U.S. Army Specialist Joseph Hein of Fort Benning , Ga., who fired 2378-141X out of a possible 2400. The X-score refers to the tally of perfect center-shot bull's-eyes and is used to break ties.

Second place went to Tarl Kempley of Carson City, Nev., at 2376-142X, and third went to U.S. Army Specialist Matthew Rawlings of Fort Benning at 2373-141X.

The smallbore prone overall national championship was awarded to Hein as well with a 4790-354X, even though Englishman Richard Fowke outshot him at 4790-355X. By rule, however, a national championship must go to a U.S. citizen. Fowke was awarded the title of civilian champion.

Third place in smallbore prone went to Reya Kempley of Carson City who also was awarded the title of female champion at 4789-374X. Hein also was awarded the title of service champion.

The final phase of the National Matches, high-power rifle competition, gets under way tomorrow.

Contact Steve Pollick at:

spollick@theblade.com

or 419-724-6068.



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