When all the smoke cleared and the echo from the gunfire disappeared, Chris Cerino of Wadsworth was just a single .30-caliber shot away from becoming the History Channel’s first-ever “Top Shot.”
However, competitor Iain Harrison, 42, was literally just a hair-trigger faster in aiming his M-14 service rifle at the exploding target set up 200 yards down range. Thus, Harrison - a transplanted English native now living in Sherwood, Oregon - won the title and its $100,000 first-place prize.
Yet Sunday’s finale 4-minute shoot-off went down to the wire as Harrison and Cerino competed while using seven of the weapons they had previously shot or tossed. Among them were throwing knives, a longbow, handguns and rifles.
"It was as close as you can get and still lose. I think I lost because I lacked focus. I really wasn't expecting to win; I was just doing my thing," Cerino said today (Monday).
Each station had various types of targets the two finalists were required to hit. In-between the stations the men had to run and then settle both their nerves and their heart rates in order to successfully tackle the shooting hurdle.
"I dreaded the throwing knives but I was looking forward to shooting the hanging rope with the Winchester 1873 (Lever-action) rifle," the 42-year-old Cerino said.
Incredibly, the shooters arrived at the last station and the M-14 rifles at nearly the same instant, each man easily scoring on the 100-yard target. But the bullet fired from Harrison’s rifle was the first to strike the 200-yard target.
Following the shoot-off the two men shook hands and hugged each other.
"If I was shooting against a jerk maybe I would have done things differently but Iain is a great guy. I was proud to shoot against all of the four finalists," Cerino said.
It had been a 32-day experience for Cerino and Harrison as they out-shot 14 other competitors and beat out 6,000 applicants for the opportunity to participate in the History Channel’s reality television program that focuses on shooting.
The program has become something of a cult favorite amongst shooters and was even watched by people who’ve never picked up a firearm, let alone a longbow, crossbow or much less a throwing knife.
"Maybe there were a few things that I could have done to shave a few seconds off but I really am proud of what I did, my family is proud, too, and so are my friends," Cerino said also.
Cerino also said that Sunday night nearly 300 people gathered at the Wadsworth Cleats sports restaurant to watch the season finale. Among them was fellow Top Shot competitor 22-year-old Kelly Banchard.
"Kelly was up at Camp Perry shooting in the National Matches and decided to surprise us all by coming. He did. The girls went nuts," Cerino said with a chuckle.
Now comes the hard part for the History Channel: Sorting through the thousands of applications it has received for auditions to the next season of “Top Shot,” which host Colby Donaldson says will feature even more grueling challenges.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn