Freshmen shoot for success

Erin Conolly, Staff Reporter

2014 Post 72 State Team-Rifle Comp.-Hardy & OravecFreshmen Sam Oravec and Sean Hardy have an interest in a unique sport-competitive shooting. They participate in the American Junior Shooting Program which is a gun safety education and marksmanship program that includes the elements of safety, education, competition, and enjoyment in the sport. These competitive shooters use a .177 caliber air rifle to practice and compete with. On May 3, both boys placed in the American Region Air Rifle state match in Charlottesville, Virginia; Oravec placed 13th and Hardy 7th.
“I was excited because it was my and also my team’s first time on that level,” Oravec said. “I had to shoot a single shot pellet rifle a distance of 10 meters into a target. I loaded, fired it and the judges score on how close to the center of the target I hit.”
Oravec also competes in track and field and the concentration he learns in shooting helps him prepare for races and deal with nerves.
“It relaxes me and makes me calm,” Oravec said. “It also helps me with other sports to improve and keep my cool.”
Hardy, who started the sport when he was 11, has been to a state competition before.
“I went to a state’s competition by myself when I was 12 and I won a $5,000 grant,” Hardy said. “My favorite part about this recent competition was the cool facility, it was soundproofed.”
Hardy is dedicated to the sport, and loves the relaxing atmosphere of it.
“With the sport, there’s absolutely no pressure, and I can just show up and shoot,” Hardy said.
Hardy’s mom, guidance office assistant Karen Cerra, believes her son is hard work has paid off.
“He worked really hard to be in the competition and he took responsibility for himself,” Cerra said.” “He put a lot of time and effort into it and for him to qualify, and the team as well. It’s nice to see his improvement from week to week as he goes into practice. It’s absolutely a good thing to be involved in; it’s a great team and a great group of people.”
Coach Claude Davenport, who has been involved with Post 72 for four years, has a competitive shooting history with his 40 year military and law enforcement background. Davenport enjoys educating shooters required by the sport, such as concentration, focus, and shooting skills.
“To keep motivation up, we focus on reinforcing personal positive accomplishments and providing constructive support on any aspects that may need improvement,” Davenport said. “We tell the shooters they are really in competition with himself/herself when they start out, allowing them to put their attention and focus on getting a little better each time they shoot.”
As for the future in the sport for the two boys, Davenport believes that it could be extremely bright.
“Their accomplishments this year in practice, regional, and state matches have brought notice to themselves and the team by some national-level coaches.  I can see both Sam and Sean being part of a college rifle team, maybe even with partial scholarship,” Davenport said.  “What I would really like to see, is both of them continuing to learn and fine tune their skills throughout their school and college experience, but then return as coaches to pass on their knowledge and skill sets to the next generation of shooters.”
Oravec and Hardy are dedicated to practicing on their own, mentoring the newer shooters, and developing personal confidence.
“As coaches, we have seen the dedication of both Sean and Sam develop along very parallel paths.  Both were very quick starters, eager to learn.  They continue to be very open to coaching,” Davenport said. “Both of them are excellent examples of what the American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program is all about.”