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Local athletes hope to hit their mark at Olympic Training Center

By Kane O'Neill, KTVM Sports, koneill@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 15 2014 11:11:49 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 16 2014 04:36:14 PM MDT

One Olympic event that hasn't received much recognition in the past few years is Air Rifle, despite being in the Olympics for the past 30 years.

In Bozeman, some young athletes from the Gallatin Valley Sharp Shooter's shooting range are hoping to make it a little more well know in Montana.

Young men and women from the Gallatin Valley will head to Colorado Springs this week to compete in the National Junior Olympic Shooting Competiton, with hopes of someday shooting at the Olympic level.

"Junior Olympics will have two-hundred shooters male and another couple hundred female," said Sharp Shooter's coach Erik Yager. "To really get noticed you need to get to finals, which is the top eight shooters."

"We have to visualize shooting that perfect score every single time," said Manhattan Christian junior and sharp shooter Maranda Nelson. "That's so we don't get nervous, so we have no reaction."

These athletes have been training since they were children, and they have the skills to show for it.

"We work with kids from 7 years of age through their senior year of high school," Yager said. "We teach kids how to safely handle guns, they shoot air rifles. More importantly, we teach them how to compete with those guns and how to have fun."

Gallatin Valley Sharp Shooters train in two disciplines, standing and three-position.

"There are two main disciplines from air rifle," Yager said. "There's standing, which you shoot with an air rifle. It's 100 percent off hand, standing and shooting a very small target the size of a ball-point pen. Then there's three-position. 3P is shot with a 22 caliber rifle, while prone, kneeling and standing."

However, these athletes are as focused off the range as they are in their scope, with students hoping this sport can help get them their secondary education.

"We have three students right now with scholarships," Yager said. "Two are currently in school. There's a freshman at Ole Miss and there's a senior at Nebraska. One of the kids here tonight, Ivan Roe, will be shooting for Murray State in Kentucky. These kids never would have been able to compete in a college sport any other way."

"The first step for us getting to the Olympics is college," said Nelson. "If we get to college we can practice six days a week and it's wonderful."

These precision artists want to show the caliber of their work this week at the Junior Olympics, with hopes of someday standing on the Olympic podium

"Every shooter has a dream," said Nelson. "And if we push hard enough we'll get there."

The women from Gallatin Valley will head to Colorado this Wednesday with the boys heading out later this week. Coach Yager says the club is always looking for new members, so if you would like to join or learn more you can visit https://www.facebook.com/GallatinValleySharpShooters?fref=ts.