Shooting has been an Olympic sport since the modern Olympic Games began in Athens in 1896, except in 1904 and 1928.
In Indiana high schools, the sport is considered a club sport. The X Count offers a place for young people to learn, practice and compete.
The facility on the north side of Fort Wayne is playing host to the sectional competition of the U.S. Army’s Junior Air Rifle Nationals on Saturday and Junior Olympic Regional competition Jan. 7.
"Basically, we just applied, and I don’t think anybody had a sectional in the area," said Diane Rice, vice president of business and range operations. "We have a group from Kansas coming in, and we have a group from Indy. Even though the event is on the 10th, if they come and shoot earlier, we can hold the targets and scan them in when the actual match is."
High school students who are interested in trying out shooting can attend a summer camp to see whether the sport is right for them.
"We’re midseason at this point," Rice said. "People usually start with summer camp – and that information will be on our web page – and it gives them an opportunity to come in and say, ‘Do I like it?’ This isn’t shooting tin cans in your backyard. … Sometimes it’s one or two minutes between shots."
New shooters begin with a Sporter 3-position air rifle while advanced shooters shoot precision and small-bore guns.
Currently, seven area schools have clubs for shooting: Bishop Dwenger, Carroll, Bishop Luers, Concordia, Bellmont, Howe and Culver. The teams make up the Tri-County Conference.
The facility also offers weekly shooting for veterans with disabilities that will begin again Jan. 4, Boy Scout merit badge clinics, American Heritage Girls Badge Program and community outreach.
"The unique thing about shooting sports is that a person with a disability can shoot right alongside someone who doesn’t have a disability," Rice said. "It’s one of the few sports where it doesn’t matter what your ability is, you can shoot together with your peers."
The facility is in an old storage warehouse that was used by Smithfield Foods. The X-Count has been in the building since Nov. 23, 2015.
Rice’s husband, Gregg, has been a shooting coach for the past decade and has been able to use technology to better support the development of the shooters.
"It is basically an optical sensor like on your phone. You move, it moves," he said. "It knows where you move on an X- and Y-axis. It knows about where you’re going to shoot by the velocity of the gun you’re shooting. We can actually see everything that somebody’s doing with their rifle.
"We can see heartbeat, we can see what they’re doing with their breathing, how they trigger, you can see everything. You can do diagnostic work on what is going on to try and fix it and make it better."
The facility is not open to the public because, as Rice puts it, "like ice time, range time is difficult to come by," with the many groups already using the facility.
The X Count receives donated items to use as fundraising revenue through The Midway USA Foundation, Shooting Trust helped by Larry and Brenda Potterfield. The Midway matches every dollar that is deposited into the trust account.
For more information on the facility and its programs, go to the website at www.thexcount.com.