How does a brother-and-sister team earn so many DE titles?
I've earned my Distinguished Expert in both light rifle and shotgun...
"So what sport do you play?"
Sounds like a common question, right? For most people, I would say it comes with some pretty common answers. Some people would consider something like water polo to be a unique answer, but I think I've even got that beat. When I get asked that question, I proudly answer, "I'm a competitive shooter." Over the years, I've gotten all sorts of strange looks, but that hasn't stopped me from doing what I love. I love to shoot, whether I'm outside shooting shotgun or on the range shooting a pistol or a rifle.
The shooting sports have led me to all sorts of interesting places I may not have gone otherwise. I can say that I've stayed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on three separate occasions, something most aspiring athletes never have the chance to experience. In the spring of 2008, I had the privilege to meet Jason Turner, a member of the U.S. Olympic Pistol Team who went on to win a bronze medal in free pistol. How many people do you know that can say they've met an Olympic medalist? Not many, but I'm more than proud of myself that I've managed to accomplish such a feat. How was it possible? The shooting sports!
Shooting also helped enable me to do my favorite thing that I've done in high school, the NRA's Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.). All I can say is go apply now! You won't regret it! Have you ever met Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of the NRA? Go apply for Y.E.S., and you just might get the chance! It was amazing, and without my shooting background, I may not have been able to go. While I was there, I got to meet 44 of the best and brightest juniors and seniors in the country! We all had so much fun and so many memories were made. Shooting took me to Washington, D.C., and helped me bring back some friendships for a lifetime.
I can't really put to paper everything the shooting sports have done for me. They bring me something to love and enjoy. I've earned my Distinguished Expert in both light rifle and shotgun, two things that took a lot of hard work. I'm currently working on achieving my Distinguished Expert in international air pistol, something that's proven difficult for me in the past year. I've already achieved my Expert, so I know that third DE is coming soon!
I've been shooting competitively since I was nine, and I know that I have many more years left before me in this rewarding sport. I would love to encourage everyone even vaguely interested in giving competitive shooting a try. I've shared with you just a little of what it has brought me on the outside, but on the inside it's done so much more. It's helped me build confidence and problem-solving skills I'll carry forever.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank several people: The Friends of NRA for sponsoring both my pistol and shotgun teams every year, the Gun Owners of South Carolina for their generous donations and the staff of Y.E.S. for showing me such a great time! Most of all, I'd like to thank my mom and dad for supporting me in shooting. I'm nothing without you two!
...I am a triple Distinguished Expert in shotgun, rifle and pistol...
To start off, I can't believe how much I have accomplished from shooting. I have so many memories and I have met friends along the way with whom I have built very close relationships. Some of them have become like brothers and sisters to me. I started shooting when I was seven. I first shot air rifle but soon quit to move to air pistol because I was too little. When I first started, all I remember was wanting to go to all these big matches like the older boys—I soon got my chance.
Even though I am a triple Distinguished Expert in shotgun, rifle and pistol, I only shoot shotgun and pistol competitively. In shotgun I shoot for my school, Newberry Academy, where we compete in trap, skeet and sporting clays. Last year, I shot a perfect 25 straight in trap—so, in an old shotgunning tradition, my teammates destroyed my hat by shooting it. In pistol, I shoot for the Newberry JR Pistol Club. This year, at the National Championships at Camp Perry, we adopted the name the Newberry Goldfish because goldfish smile…and win gold.
Just this year in pistol, I have met two new girls with whom I have close relationships. My team at Pistol Nationals won the mixed-team competition, and that went right along with my two other national championships.
I also do a lot of other sports like basketball, cross-country, swimming and baseball, and none of them have any comparison to the mental attitude that you have to have for shooting. Most people don't believe this, but I know from experience when your mental thinking while shooting gets disturbed, you mess up and your shot could go from shooting a 10 to a five.
I want to always keep shooting and gaining more memories. Once you stop worrying about winning and start having fun, you will be amazed how much better you will feel at the end of each match. I can still remember the shotgun meets when we laughed so much we almost cried. I also remember in pistol pretending to be goldfish, playing in Lake Erie and having rally shoes.
Now I need to give thanks to all the people who have helped me along the way to winning national championships and regular matches and going to the Junior Olympics. To some of my shotgun coaches who coached me this year: Thank you, Paula and Stanley Mills, also to Mr. Eddie, who coached me once. I also need to thank one of my pistol coaches, whom I call Doc, who could help anyone with pistol and teach him to shoot 10s. Lastly, to my dad, who is the head coach for both pistol and shotgun. Sometimes I get something he calls "coach-dad-itis," which is some kind of disease that I sometimes get when I don't want to listen to him.
I'm lucky to have all these people to support me, especially my dad who has supported my shooting career ever since I was little and hopefully will be there until I make it to the Olympics, because that is my biggest dream—and I will try to keep hold of that forever. So anyone who isn't involved with shooting and is interested: Don't wait! Go ahead and start as soon as you can, because if your experience is anything like mine, it will be the best adventure in your life.