U Marksmanship Club targets competitive success

Photos by Lonny DanlerPhoto Editor

Story by Adam BensonAsst. News Editor

For the vast majority of U students, the Marksmanship Club may be an unknown club sport, but for the six members of the team it’s more of a well-kept secret.

That’s why Mark DeLong, coach of the team since 1994, is using the club’s accomplishments over the past decade in the hopes of attracting new shooters to the club-accomplishments which include 22 All-American awards in eight years, including numerous gold medals and appearances at the Collegiate National Championships.

Piggybacking onto that track record, DeLong was joined by club members Leslie Nelson, Katie Maynes and Erik Silvertsen Thursday night in the basement of the Naval Sciences Building to host tryouts and add new members to the team.

But even with all that, the club is still mired in obscurity.

“Unfortunately, that’s true,” DeLong said.

Though the club receives no funding from the U, it’s subsidized by the Utah Precision Marksmanship Society, allowing it to travel to regional competitions in Phoenix and Blackfoot, Idaho.

However, even with local community support, the club is limited in its ability to compete with other college teams.

“We don’t have a lot of collegiate competition, but we do have local competition,” DeLong said.

The Marksmanship Society, which supplies the team with its guns, targets and match fees, also sponsors local pistol competitions-providing an essential outlet for the club’s shooters.

“It’s totally invaluable,” DeLong said.

If the sport of bull’s-eye shooting doesn’t enjoy widespread support at the U, that feeling is matched by people from coast to coast, DeLong said.

“It is a very, very big sport everywhere in the world outside the United States. This country can’t even get in the door at an international level.”

But for the six members of the team, it’s not about shooting in front of thousands of fans in the middle of Rice Eccles Stadium.

“I’m interested in applying shooting skills to other aspects of my life,” Silvertsen said-skills like mental discipline and focus.

Nelson, who’s been a member of the team for three years and took home an All-American award at competition last year, said for her, the sport is less about glamour and more about the pure thrill of competition.

“It’s fun to compete. Winning big matches is fun,” she said.

The Marksmanship Club competes in international-style bull’s-eye pistol shooting, the same style used in the Olympic Summer Games.

Shooters compete in three 60-shot categories that test their timing and accuracy: air, free and standard.

But no matter the event, DeLong said each time the trigger is pulled, the shooter starts anew.

“Shooting is an experimental science. You need to have perfect body alignment to see, absorb and function,” DeLong said.

DeLong also has theories as to why the sport is lacking a mainstream appeal in the United States.

“It’s the antithesis of the teenage male mentality because it’s all about self control and discipline,” he said.

The stigma of American gunowners also plays prominently in the sport’s obscurity, he said.

“There’s an inverse correlation between strictness of gun rules and competitive shooting,” DeLong said.

Thus far, only one civilian marksmanship team has won a national championship, but that’s something DeLong thinks will change soon.

“Ohio State is the only non military collegiate team in history to have won a national championship, and we’ll be the second. This could be the year,” he said.

[email protected]