There’s a local, long established, and nationally recognized youth group that needs help moving into the modern era of their sport.
The Queen Anne’s County 4-H Marksmanship Club has been active for over fifty years and operates under the mission statement to teach young people the basic skills and responsible handling of firearms while promoting disciplined, goal oriented teambuilding and providing members exposure to the upper levels of competition as well as potential educational and professional opportunities. Shooting in three position matches – standing, kneeling and prone – using small bore rifles and precision air rifles with participants ranging from eight years old to eighteen, the squad has repeatedly distinguished themselves in contests from the Chesapeake region to the USA Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colorado and beyond.
According to Coach Fred MacKenzie, who took over from his brother Lou after Lou was selected for a coaching position at the United States Naval Academy, the Queen Anne’s team consists of talented athletes, involved parents, dedicated leadership, and a supportive home base, most everything needed to outfit a winning unit, but without the funds to update to the scoring technology used in current top-tier tournaments, the Marksmanship Club may not be able to continue to provide its members the opportunity to compete at the elite standards they’ve always worked toward.
The bottom line is this: The sport has gone electronic and the future isn’t cheap.
While competitors still utilize traditional firearms and ammunition with some upgrades and modifications, high quality advanced targeting systems that measure accuracy, velocity, and even detect cross shots from neighboring athletes are now the norm. These systems increase safety and training efficiency, show results instantly, and minimizes inaccuracies in judging.
They also cost about $6,000 per firing lane and the QA team needs to provide targets for at least twenty lanes to stay in the game.
For a club that’s still using paper targets and hasn’t upgraded its equipment in about a quarter century yet has had numerous members ascend to the top of the sport, the inability to modernize will soon exclude the local shooters from high level competition and could portend the limits of the team’s future.
It’s a downward spiral: Nobody wants to shoot on outdated paper targets anymore. Other teams stop coming here to compete. Fewer matches means fewer opportunities and less community interest. Less support equals a lower likelihood of continuing the successes the club has enjoyed in the past.
One recent club member who expanded upon her local marksmanship accomplishments is Morgan Phillips. After high school, Phillips studied at West Virginia University, where she helped lead her team to national victories as one of the best shooters in the school’s history. Named the NCAA Championships Top Performer in 2017, she then continued her studies at the University of Memphis, earning her master’s degree in sport and leisure management. After spending a season as an assistant coach for that school’s rifle program she was promoted to head coach in 2022. This year she was named the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Head Coach of the Year and Great America Rifle Conference Coach of the Year.
Another standout past member is Coach MacKenzie’s son Mason, a 2019 graduate of Queen Anne’s County High School. Mason MacKenzie was a two-time Air Rifle National Champion, won the bronze medal at the 2015 Junior Olympics, and was a Maryland state champion in each of his last five seasons. This past May he realized a lifelong goal of graduating from the Naval Academy, where he’d been recruited by their team and competed under the leadership of his uncle. Since graduation, Mason has moved to Pensacola, Florida to begin training as a naval aviator.
Mason says when he was coming up through the club, he started shooting at the age of seven, there was an excitement about being part of the team and its achievements. He looked up to earlier members like Nash Richardson, who also went on to compete for the Naval Academy, and Nash’s sister, Mekenna. “These were accomplished but humble competitors that I was honored to stand aside,” he says. “I loved being part of our team, part of 4H, part of what that organization stands for. Participating in the county fair was always a highlight of the year. The marksmanship group gave me access to so many important experiences, provided endless opportunities to make friends from all over the county, and introduced me to so many caring, responsible mentors.
“We used to send seven or eight members to the Junior Olympics every year,” he says. “Now we’re lucky if it’s one. It’s a shame. The team is deserving and accomplished, but a lack of public awareness has hurt. There’s such a rich history there but I’m afraid that without community support it would be almost impossible to continue. It has always been expensive to be competitive. Equipment is expensive, travel is expensive, and that’s before you even talk about upgrading to the more modern targeting systems. People sometimes don’t see it as a sport because it’s not as popular and not as obviously physical as other team activities. It’s not a lost cause though because with the right backing, Queen Anne’s has the potential to help bring this club back to national prominence.”
Mason’s dad, Coach MacKenzie, has always tried to keep costs low to provide opportunity for as many members as possible but in these times of high costs and tight budgets, the Marksmanship Club is now looking for financial assistance from the community at large. To find out how you can help provide support for the continuation of the team’s longstanding success, reach out to Coach MacKenzie at qamarksmanship@gmail or 410-490-9379. More information is also available through the club’s Facebook page.
Brent Lewis is a native Chesapeake Bay Eastern Shoreman. He has published two nonfiction books about the region, “Remembering Kent Island: Stories from the Chesapeake” and a “History of the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department.” His most recent book, “Stardust By The Bushel: Hollywood On The Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore”won a 2023 Independent Publishers award. His first novel, Bloody Point 1976, won an Honorable Mention Award at the 2015 Hollywood Book Festival. He and his wife Peggy live in Centreville, Maryland.