Shooters take aim in competition

Participants from across the country drawn to Hallsville.
Monday, August 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:12 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

At the sound of a buzzer, shooting competitor J.J. Racaza dropped his 007 “martini glass” and attempted to draw his pistol. But as the glass — a slightly modified plastic bottle — bounced at his feet, the weapon held firm in his holster. The holster was still locked, costing him time. Racaza freed his pistol and shells flew from his weapon in two shot bursts. Steel targets fell and he rushed on to finish the stage.

Racaza and other pistol shooters from across the county competed in this and similar contests over the weekend during the United States Practical Shooting Association Area 3 Championship at the Chapman Academy in Hallsville. Match director Emmanuel Bragg said that eight of the top 10 pistol shooters in the world were on hand for the competition, which had a James Bond theme.

Competitors ran through obstacle-filled stages — each one titled after a James Bond film — firing customized semi-automatic pistols as they went.

As the clock ticked, Racaza had problems reloading farther down the stage. Even so, he finished the “Tomorrow Never Dies,” stage in roughly 11 seconds. The best time for that stage was around 9.5 seconds. Racaza had done well, even with two problems. But he laughed heartily under his sunglasses.

“There’s no adrenaline like it,” said Racaza, 24, of New Jersey.

Competitors said they came out for the rush of competition and the friendly atmosphere.

“We’re like an extended family,” said Tom Haman, 48, of Coralville, Iowa. “They’re just ordinary guys. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your political leanings are. It’s a sport everyone can enjoy.”

Joe Lopez, 53, of Meriden, Kan., won the highest overall award in the senior division. He is a park ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers and works part time for the Meriden Police Department. Lopez is also a retired Army senior master sergeant. .

Jake Divita, 19, came from an hour north of Detroit, Mich., to compete. He and his girlfriend, Taryn Tatus, 16, have been together for two months and she’s been to every one of his shooting matches since they’ve been dating.

“I absolutely fell in love with this sport,” said Tatus, who grew up shooting.

The shooters competed in squads and watched each other shoot all day, building a sort of camaraderie.

Divita was put into Squad 15, with slightly younger shooters. Their squad was nicknamed the Ritalin Super-Squad.

“I love it,” said Lee Dimaulangan, 18, of Houston. He is a Grandmaster in the sport — the highest rank a shooter can obtain. Dimaulangan has been competing for three years and has two sponsors.

One of the younger competitors on Squad 15 was K.C. Eusebio, 16, of Diamond Bar, Calif. But K.C. didn’t lack in experience. He’s been shooting since he was eight and made Grandmaster at age 12.

“My dad used to shoot a lot . . . and he taught me basically everything,” Eusebio said.

Racaza also said his dad got him started.

“Dad got me into it when I was 11 years old,” said Racaza, who was born in the Philippines. He periodically trains with a friend of his on the Army team at Fort Benning, Ga.

“I gave up golf for this,” said Racaza, who had a golf scholarship to Seton Hall University. He gave up the scholarship to shoot competitively and made Grandmaster at age 20.

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