As his love of shooting grew, so did his ability. Drown participated in the National Rifle Association (NRA) smallbore program at the Fremont Junior Rifle Club and went on to attend Ohio State University (1980-1984), where he was a member of the OSU rifle team under coach Pat Cherry. While at OSU, Drown was a four-time letter winner and two-rime team captain. The squads won three Big Ten Rifle Championships, while Drown added two individual Big Ten rifles. In 1984, he qualified for the Olympic trials, and his dream of one day representing the United States seemed possible.
Down But Not Out
After college graduation, Drown continued his shooting endeavors and attended the NRA National Smallbore Rifle B-Position Championships at Camp Perry (Ohio) every year. Then, in 1997, he began experiencing neurological problems that affected his lower extremities. In three short years his condition had worsened, and by 2000 he was limited to shooting smallbore from the prone position. In 2001, he underwent back surgery that took away what remained of his ability to compete in a sport that had given him purpose for 35 years.
Shortly thereafter, Drown discovered he had multiple sclerosis. Surely, returning to shooting would never be possible.
Although Drown had given up the sport, his friends were not so willing to let him. Two of those friends were Cherry and distinguished shooter Brooks Harris. In 2003, Cherry encouraged Drown to return to shooting. Brooks put the nail in the coffin of Drown's doubt when he told him, "You have to do this. If you do this, there might be someone else out there who'll be inspired to try."
That was all Drown needed to hear. If he could bring hope and promise to someone else by sharing his experience, he was in. He was re-energized by the prospect of being on the range again.
He researched Paralympic rifle sports and the equipment needed for success. One item was a tabletop that could be attached to a wheelchair. Drown, an engineer, and Bret Higgins, a machinist and fellow rifle shooter from Carey; Ohio, put their heads together and three iterations later created the table design that met Drown's needs while abiding by Paralympic rules for competition. Since he could no longer shoot standing or kneeling, positions had to be modified to shoot from a wheelchair, and muscles needed retraining. Drown was never alone; Brooks provided encouragement, and Cherry did what he does best--coach.
Initially Drown was fearful of appearing "different." Competing in the NRA's Beeman Grand Prix Tour helped him overcome his insecurities by facing others with physical disabilities. His return to competitive shooting taught him he was still a complete person and his disability did not diminish him. He was no less than any other shooter on the line; he just did it differently. The shooting community and his family provided physical support he no longer possessed, which allowed him to find an inner strength he didn't know existed.
By 2007, Drown was ready to return to the NRA National Smallbore Rifle 3-Position Championships. In preparation, he contacted NRA's rifle manager and match director, Howard Moody, to arrange for accessible parking, squadding, and rest rooms. Moody's staff was accommodating and made sure Drowns needs were met.
For most shooters, rain is a demon they would rather not fight. Drown found the rain and cooler weather helpful, as heat and humidity exacerbate MS symptoms.
Individually, Drown finished 68th overall, putting him in the top 20%, only 44 points and 33 places short of his personal goal of getting into the top 10%. For Drown, however, the highlight of those championships was the fact that his team placed first in the state association category of the Any Sight phase.
Fast-forward to July 2009. A successful year brought Drown the National Champion plaque for the 3-P Any Sight. He also finished in the top 10 in the National Smallbore Sectional Championships and earned the Ohio State Smallbore Champion title.
Drown keeps a book of goals, and now he can add a few more check marks. But in all reality, his success is just beginning as he dreams of Paralympic success.
"Greg has the determination and drive we all look for in a competitor," says USA Shooting's Paralympic manager, Bob Foth. "His accomplishment is extraordinary, and I am very excited about the possibility of working with him in the future."
"The medals, plaques, and recognition are great, but it's not about me," Drown says. "I returned to this sport not just because I love to shoot. I just want my success to inspire others to try. If I've done that, then I truly am successful."