Top gun

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

You’re standing in the middle of the Olympics Training Center, just you and your pistol, pointed straight at the target. One of your eyes is closed; the other is focused on the quarter-sized circle more than a football field away that you have to hit.

Judges, who are only waiting to see if you hit the target, surround you. They roll their eyes impatiently. They have 80 more people to judge.

Suddenly, you realize the coach of the National Shooting Team is looking over your shoulder. You have fewer than two minutes to make the shot.

No pressure.

You aim. You shoot. It’s dead on.

Unfortunately, you have no time to celebrate; you have to do it 60 more times.

This was what Nicholas Zachman, a senior in political science and international studies, experienced last weekend during a shooting competition in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Zachman was the only member from the U Collegiate Pistol Team to compete in the match, which acted as a tryout for the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

And although Zachman didn’t qualify, he said it was the biggest match of his career. He placed 16th in the nation.

“It was such an important match, I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Luckily, when the national coach was looking at me, I did well, so hopefully I left a good impression.”

And Zachman has been leaving good impressions since the very beginning.

He first picked up a pistol two years ago, when a friend suggested he take a marksmanship class to fulfill the extra credit hour his degree required.

Other than shooting black powder guns as a child, Zachman had never shot a pistol before he enrolled in the class.

Now, he is the president of the U Pistol Team.

“Turns out I had a knack for it,” he said, adding that shooting is all about concentration.

“It’s not difficult, you just have to subject yourself to focus,” he said. “You just have to push everything to the back of your mind because you can’t think of anything else or else it hurts your shooting.”

Zachman trains nine to 10 hours a week (only four during finals). So far, he has competed in more than 20 local and national matches each year.

His favorite match memories include shooting at the New York Military Academy and at a range in Georgia.

“The morning was cool and foggy in Georgia,” he said. “It reminded me a lot of what it would have been like in the Civil War.”

His next competition is the preliminary tryouts for the Olympics on Jan. 5.

Zachman said he’s always wanted to be an Olympian. However, he would have to quit school to save up to go to Beijing in 2008.

“Beijing (is) out of question,” he said. “I would love to go in 2012, but it may be too far in advance. It all depends what I want to do as a career.”

Until then, he’s saving up and working two jobs–assisting operations during the graveyard shift at LDS Hospital and installing video systems for General Communication.

Team adviser Matt DeLong said Zachman has a serious shot for the 2012 Olympics.

“He is a gifted and dedicated shooter,” DeLong said. “If he musters the mental game, he will be a force to be reckoned with.”

If professional shooting doesn’t work out, Zachman said he would like to work for the government in a state department job. When he graduates, he plans to enlist in the army and serve for at least four years.

“I love shooting because I get a feeling of self control. At that moment, when I’m shooting, I know that I’m controlling all of my thoughts,” he said. “It’s almost like a Zen artist. Like a feeling that you can conquer anything.”

Lisa Teran

Zachman uses a spotting scope to help see where his shot landed. Two of the three shots are within the “nickel-sized” circumference of the number nine.

Lisa Teran

Nicholas Zachman practices his shot in the basement of the Navy building on campus Monday.

Lisa Teran

Junior Nicholas Zachman uses “robot” glasses with an aperture lens to help his line of sight during a practice shoot. Zachman, a political science and international studies major, is president of the U Pistol Team and recently competed against 70 shooters in Colorado Springs.