(FL) Teen marksmen have a mind to succeed


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Drizzt
March 3, 2003, 04:59 PM
St. Petersburg Times

March 3, 2003 Monday

SECTION: LARGO TIMES; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 828 words

HEADLINE: Teen marksmen have a mind to succeed

BYLINE: JILLIAN BANDES

BODY:


Two youths concentrate on the physical and mental skills required for precision in shooting competitions.

David Sprecher wears two sweat shirts, a double canvas jacket and pants, heavy gloves, boots and a felt hat with earflaps - all to help him control even tiny movements and to muffle his heartbeat.

Holding a 10-pound, .22-caliber smallbore rifle on his shoulder, he stands as still as a statue. Fifty feet away, there is a paper target with a black dot the size of a pencil eraser.

The 16-year-old from Tarpon Springs High School focuses on the dot.

Then his index finger slowly squeezes the trigger.

When the shot leaves the barrel, David has good results. In January, he won two competitions in the intermediate junior category of the Florida State Shooting Association/USA Shooting state championship in Orlando.

One was an air rifle competition. The other was for shooting a smallbore rifle in what's known as a three-position competition, which involves shooting while standing, kneeling and prone.

Those wins qualify him again for the Junior Olympics, which will be held in April in Colorado Springs.

This will not be David's first national competition.

Last year, after placing in the top third at the Junior Olympics, he went on to place ninth overall at USA Nationals in three-position smallbore, beating more experienced collegiate shooters.

This year he hopes to do even better.

"I want to get in the top eight for smallbore and air rifle at Junior Olympics, which will get me in the finals," said David, the son of Kathy and Bob Sprecher of Tarpon Springs.

This 5-foot-4, sandy-haired sophomore has the drive to do it. He has a 3.0 grade point average, and he watches his diet for up to a week before each competition to make sure he will not be jittery from caffeine or sugar.

The only thing between the muzzle of his rifle and the black dot in the center of the target is his psyche. Shooting is an intensively mental sport that requires Zen-like calm and focus.

"You have to be as relaxed as possible," David said. "You can't get psyched out. You have to clear your mind."

That philosophy is shared by David's shooting teammate, 15-year-old Curtis Gagne of Largo, who placed second in the international air rifle and third in three-position smallbore categories at the same competition.

"It is 70 percent mental and 30 percent skill," Curtis said.

David and Curtis are members of the junior competition team at the Wyoming Antelope Club near the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Under the guidance of Bill Gagne, Curtis' father, five to 10 junior competitors spend hours on the psychological aspects of target-shooting. In a two-hour practice, they fire 100 to 150 times and might spend a minute before each shot just thinking about it.

David and Curtis have two team practices per week and usually practice once or twice a week by themselves at home. Practice at home consists of setting up a target on a wall, then standing a certain distance away from it. The teens then go through all of the motions of preparing for a shot and pull the trigger of an unloaded gun.

There are competitions almost every other weekend that often require getting up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays.

"Shooting requires discipline, concentration and dedication," Bill Gagne said. "A kid won't make it in shooting unless parents are involved."

David's grandfather introduced him to the sport when he was 8. He took the junior safety course at the Wyoming Antelope Club when he was 9, and after trying soccer, baseball, and karate, he began on the club's junior competition team when he was 11.

For two years, he has attended Camp Perry, in Ohio, the site of the National Rifle Association's national shooting matches. In 2002 he was the captain of the Camp Perry prone team, which finished first in juniors and third overall.

Curtis, a ninth-grader in Lakewood High School's advanced technology program, has been shooting competitively for two years. He has also attended Camp Perry and received silver and bronze medals at the 2002 Florida Sunshine State Games. Both teens hope to win a scholarship to shoot in college: David at Virginia Military Institute and Curtis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"They've practiced very, very hard for the past couple of years," said Alida Duchene, president of the Wyoming Antelope Club. "The juniors are an important part of the club."

The club offers free shooting programs to teach shooting safety and firearm responsibility to anyone younger than 18.

"The sport of shooting has so much to do with firearm safety," Bill Gagne said. "Everyone involved knows the safety rules, and just in case, there are supervisors and range officers watching during practices and competitions. Safety is the biggest thing."

For David, shooting is more than a hobby. It's a passion.

"Everyone plays football, but not everyone shoots," he said. "I would do it all day, every day."

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Dave P
March 4, 2003, 08:41 AM
It's always great to see positive articles like this in the media!

Thanks Drizzt.

cslinger
March 4, 2003, 10:30 AM
David Sprecher wears two sweat shirts, a double canvas jacket and pants, heavy gloves, boots and a felt hat with earflaps - all to help him control even tiny movements and to muffle his heartbeat.


I am sweating just thinking about this. I hate heat, I am pretty sure I would be in a heat stroke induced coma by the time I got my first shot off. Lord, imagine the sweat in hot humid Florida. Better man then I.

I gotta go get some ice water now.

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