Competitive shooters age 20 and under gathered at The X Count’s indoor rifle range Saturday for a chance to qualify for the Junior Olympics.
Starting at 9 a.m., about 35 participants across three categories – air pistol, international air rifle and small-bore rifle – took aim at targets with bull’s-eyes no bigger than a pinhead. For 30 minutes at a time, air rifle competitors fired, pausing between each shot to prepare, sight the target and ready themselves before squeezing the trigger again.
Air rifle participants fired 10 shots at each of six standing targets. Small-bore rifle participants fired 20 shots at each target from standing, kneeling and prone positions, said Diane Rice, The X Count’s vice president of business and range operations.
"It’s a lot of fun, especially when you get to travel" said Samantha Shultz, who shoots for Bishop Dwenger. "It’s going to different ranges and seeing what they do differently, learning how you can change your own range to make it better."
Shultz participated in the air rifle and small-bore competitions.
Shooters travel from across Indiana and parts of Michigan to participate, because a strong performance could mean qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Rice said. Last year, the Fort Wayne event sent eight competitors to the Junior Olympics. Competitive shooting acknowledges athletes for whom sports like basketball may not be the right fit, Rice said.
"Anybody can come in here and really work and take it seriously. It’s 90 percent mental," Rice said. "You have to shoot between breaths, you have to shoot between heartbeats, you really have to be self-aware, very mindful."
Rachael Dodson, a junior at Culver Academies, said she started rifling two weeks ago. Dodson said she participated Saturday to gain experience. She said she also shoots skeet and trap. Dodson added that the Junior Olympic Regional Competition is a great opportunity for competitors.
"I’m just so thankful that my school has their own course that we get to shoot on," Dodson said. "It’s just a really great opportunity that we have that many schools don’t have."