A promising future

By Sydney Bucholtz

Features Editor

While all of Buffalo competed with frozen windshields, frigid temperatures, skidding tires, high winds, and relentless blizzards, the Canisius Rifle Team displayed their precision, skills, and determination at the National Rifle Association Intercollegiate National Championships 1,000 miles away in Fort Benning, Ga.  Those who competed for the team consisted of Veronica Shabert, Domenic Romanello, Jared Westhoven, Lauren Reno, Elias Lipka.  As an organization working in the direction of much increased success and achievement, the team branched out, engaged with other teams from across the country, and earned a few personal best scores in the process of this opportunity.

The team flew from New York to Georgia for the course of the Spring Break week, and were still able to return home in time for the beginning of classes.  Assistant Coach Barth Payne discussed the recent competition with The Griffin.  “I believe the kids got a lot out of it,” Payne shared.  “They had to shoot from an indoor location to an outdoor target.  They had to account for winds that popped up as well.  The indoor air targets are similar to what they have seen at other schools.”  

“I think they did very well,” Payne continued.  In fact, he additionally informed that some shooters even achieved their personal best at the championships.  He added, “ I believe that they really took in the advice of what the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) gave them during the shooters clinic.”

Not only did Payne travel to the NRA Intercollegiate National Championships with the Rifle Team, but he also accompanied them to various other competitive locations across the nation.  “I travel with the team to MIT, Coast Guard Academy, Yale, and Fort Benning for the NRA Intercollegiate Matches,” said Payne.  At this past weekend’s match, they participated in a Fun Shoot.  “I did participate,” Payne elaborated, “and we won the [first] relay of that competition.  We had to run up the hill around the NY State Flag and then each competitor had to shoot one target.  Once all five, were shot we ran another lap and shot five more targets and finished with one more lap.”

Payne conveyed his thoughts about the impact of this competition, saying that he believes that it gave them an opportunity to “bond with other shooters from teams across the nation.”  In addition, he shared his predictions about where the team could potentially be headed.  “I believe that they are still going to compete in competitions with the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP),” said Payne.  “They will shoot their targets and then we will mail them in for scoring.”

The impact of the competition not only branched out to other teams, however, but the rifle team also experienced significant growth and individual achievement within the team of competitors.  “It has been a gradual process,” Payne described.  “The past two years have been great due to having such a strong team.  They all have continued from their freshman year and into their sophomore year.  It is always nice to see them show up and not really know what to do and barely shoot a 350 and now they are reaching [520s] and higher.”

One of such competitors who experienced such achievement was sophomore shooter Lauren Reno.  While last year she earned in the low 60s in ranking for her smallbore score, this year she succeeded in ranking thirty-sixth individually.  “In both my events, I scored just under my personal best,” Reno commented.  She earned a score of 511 at nationals with a 516 best in smallbore at this competition, and 531 best at nationals with a 536 best in air rifle.  “I know I have a lot I can improve upon, but I am extremely happy with my overall performance,” Reno reflected.  “It’s nice to see improvement from last year!”

“The NRA Nationals over break were awesome,” sheh continued. “Like I said before, the [experience] is one of a kind. The girl that placed first in air rifle scored a 99 and 100 on two of her 6 targets.  It’s crazy to be around athletes of such a high caliber.  It really makes me motivated to work harder to become the best I can be in the sport,” Reno reflected on her own rifling experience.  “It is also nice to get a break from the cold weather and have some authentic southern cooking and hospitality!”

Reno also spoke with The Griffin about the team’s recent feats.  “I have been to most of the matches this year and last year, including the MAC (Mid Atlantic Conference) Championships and the NRA (National Rifle Association) National Competitions both years,” said Reno.  “I think that my favorite so far is definitely Nationals,” she elaborated.  “We travel to Fort Benning, Ga. and the atmosphere is so unique and energizing.  Being surrounded by such high quality competitors and being on an army base makes for a memorable experience.”

Reno’s shooting career began at the beginning of her freshman year at Canisius, and she is currently in the second semester of her sophomore year.  “We are currently a team of sophomores, with one of us having competitive shooting experience coming into the team,” she shared.  “We are all really close, as traveling six hours to matches definitely bonds us together.”  

Reno told how the team recently lost a very skilled shooter last year, Jeff Donovan, whose seminary duties that did not allow him to travel to competitions with them.  Nonetheless, this prompted the team to spring into action, and as Reno put it, this “forced the rest of the team, myself included, to step up and really work hard to improve our scores.  Shooting is definitely an individual sport during the competition, but the team aspect comes in to support and encouragement when we could improve, and celebration when we do well.”

“I love shooting because it takes such a high level of self discipline,” Reno continued.    The sport requires you to get out of your head, take a breath, and be completely calm.  I love working to better my shooting skill because it requires such a physical control over my body.  Getting over mental blocks as they appear is a challenge, but is rewarding in a way that is hard to put into words.”

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