"I'd like to tell you about a sport that has changed my life. I'm an athlete and also a member of the United States Olympic Development Team for Olympic Rifle, which is featured in the summer Olympics. The Olympics has 17 shooting sports, including pistol and skeet shooting. I got interested in Olympic Rifle three years ago when I saw a picture of a girl in the newspaper holding her rifle. My mom asked me if I'd like to see what Rifle was about, so one Friday night we went to the Somerset Junior Rifle Club in Bridgewater. I tried a 3 Position Rifle, where you shoot a single shot at a target from three positions--prone (lying down), off-hand (standing) and kneeling. It was love at first try!"
"Since then I have practiced and attended numerous competitions, up to 30 a year, as far away as Colorado and even Canada. In addition to 3 Position Smallbore, I also compete in International Air Rifle. Both require that I hold the rifle perfectly still and shoot between heart beats. The target is the size of a period at the end of this sentence. The special suits we wear are to help isolate the heart beat and stabilize body sway. No, they are not bulletproof. We are constantly educated and monitored for safe practices, so there's no chance of shooting each other. In fact, rifle is the only sport that has a zero accident rate. Bet you can't say that about any other sport!"
"I really like that all of the kids I have met are just as disciplined and devoted to the sport as I am. Because of the internal discipline it takes to participate at an elite level, it also helps with managing schoolwork. Originally I thought it would be a way to get a scholarship to college, as several have shooting teams. At some point I became interested in seeing if I could make it to the Olympics. My appointment to the Olympic Development Team, considered the up-and-coming talent, is the first step in that direction."
"I was appointed to the Development Team at the end of June during the U.S. National matches at Fort Benning, Georgia. After three days of matches, I placed third out of 96 competitors. I won the bronze in both Air Rifle and Smallbore. Usually only first and second-place winners get appointed to the Development Team. But at the end of the competition, the national coach stood up and said he had the ability in the next four years to personally appoint 10 people to the Development Team. He said these are people he thinks are the next Olympic hopefuls for 2008. He immediately named one guy from the University of Kentucky and me."
"The Development Team will give me an opportunity to have access to the Olympic coaches, trainers, sports psychologist and worldwide travel to gain international experience. Since I ultimately want to go to law school, I also have to maintain my academics. It isn't easy juggling travel and schoolwork."
"I think what keeps me interested and makes practice rewarding is that I am always competing against myself. My goal in Air Rifle is always a perfect score, which is 400. My best score yet is a 393. Everyone else on the firing line is also trying to shoot the perfect score. So I am trying to shoot my best score and hope it's the best score for the match. I am also interested in consistency, because that's what it takes to be a world-class athlete. I must perform at a very high level every time."
"As an ambassador for my sport I would like others to know that rifle is an Olympic sport, just like all the other Olympic sports. It's not often shown on primetime TV. My sport requires dedication, discipline and hard work to achieve success. I'm hoping that I will make the National Team for Beijing in 2008. If not, then 2012. Age and experience in this sport tend to serve you well and not work against you, as in other sports."
"I love my sport for all that it has given me: the self-confidence, the discipline, the rewards for success. I still play golf to relax, and drag my clubs to most matches when there's an opportunity to unwind. But rifle will always be my first love."
"Anyone interested in learning more should call my coach, Cliff Kerr. He has just been awarded the Olympic Development Coach of the Year and will answer any questions about getting involved. He can be reached at 973-292-2322. You can also learn more about the Olympic shooting sports at http://www.usashooting.org."