A Culver Rifle Club is reborn and competing against other schools. And club members already have their sights set on competitive marksmanship someday becoming a varsity sport again.
The coed club has six to eight active members at this point and is using the lower level of the Penske Center at Woodcraft Camp as a rifle range. For those interested in seeing a competition, the first home match of the season will be Thursday (Jan. 14) at 4:15 p.m. A second home match is scheduled for Feb. 4. The club competes in a seven-team, four-county league of high schools that includes former rival Howe Military Academy.
After an absence of 30 years, Ann Rutledge SS’78, ’79 is thrilled to see competitive shooting return to Culver. “Culver didn’t have a rifle team. That was bothering me,” said Rutledge, who returned in 2014 as the resident director of Atrium dorm and serves as an assistant coach.
As a CGA senior, Rutledge was a member of the girls’ team which placed second in the state in the Scholastic Division in JROTC shooting competition. She hasn’t shot competitively since she graduated in 1979 “but I’m not totally rusty.”
Competitive marksmanship at the Academies ceased in November 1985 after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the range in the lower level of the Recreation Building for failure to meet federal standards for ventilation and lighting, according to the 1986 Roll Call.
The fact that his alma mater didn’t have a rifle team also bothered Floridian David Peck ’65, a retired Wall Street executive and 30-year veteran of the Naval Reserve.
“A military school should have a rifle team,” said Peck, adding “It’s the fastest-growing sport among young women.”
Peck captained CMA’s 1965 team and was a champion at the state, national, and military levels. As part of his class’s 50-year-reunion giving, Peck made a $100,000 gift to return competitive marksmanship to Culver.
That gift has helped outfit the club with four German-made Anschutz air rifles and four Sporter air rifles for novice shooters. Priced at about $2,500 each, the Olympic-grade Anschutz rifles are capable of about 3,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. Each gun is adjusted to a specific individual, and the accuracy of the guns is amazing, said head coach Marine Sgt. Jed Trefren, the military mentor to the Infantry and an Expert marksman.
For Quinn Dilts ’17 (Winamac, Ind.) competitive shooting was “something new to try in the winter” that might improve his hunting skills. He is a longtime deer hunter, though the only deer he has harvested have been with a compound bow.
“Target rifles teach you to keep steady. I learned how I shoot,” Dilts said. “The competition is really interesting. It is just a group of kids that like to shoot.”
Other than Dilts and Alex Hoover ’17 (Plymouth, Ind.), who have been shooting since they were young, the rest of the team members are first-timers. Hoover wears the mantle as the team’s best marksman, scoring in the 90s out of a possible 100 in each of three shooting positions.
Among the newbies is Katherine Polega, a junior from Saudi Arabia, who said her experience has been “amazing!”
“Shooting is almost therapeutic. It is relaxing and takes the stress of Culver away. It requires a high level of concentration and fitness, and it can be highly competitive,” Polega said. “It is a very fun and relaxed environment and I felt welcomed from the very beginning.”
Like so many things, competitive shooting has gone high-tech, said Trefren, who is also assisted by Assistant Music Director Chad Gard, who has also shot competitively.
Regardless, the basics are the same: Competitors shoot at targets from three positions – prone, standing, and kneeling – from a distance of 10 meters (33 feet). From each position competitors take one shot each at 10 targets – just 1 13/16 inches in diameter – arranged on an 8.5- x 11-inch sheet. The bull’s-eye is a mere quarter-inch. Maximum score for each position is 100 points (a 10-point bull’s-eye 10 times). As a rule, the top four individual scores from each team go toward the team match total and the best individual shooter is also recognized.
Years ago, competitors would often compete against other schools in postal matches; shooting at home and mailing their targets to a third party to be scored. Today, competitors compete in computerized online matches as well as head-to-head. For today’s “postal” matches, shot targets are scanned and downloaded to Orionresults.com, which computes each shot to the tenth of a point.
Computerized results are also charted to help individual shooters improve. For instance, a horizontal pattern indicates a shooter has issues with weight distribution. A vertical pattern reveals problems with breathing or muscle control, or pulling the trigger instead of squeezing. Director of Spiritual Life Rev. Sam Boys, who is also a certified yoga instructor, will be working with the club members on breathing and relaxation techniques.
“It is an extremely mental sport, so individual” Rutledge said, adding that the science of positioning is critical.
Interestingly, competitive shooting can also lead to a college scholarship. There are about 35 colleges that award scholarships for competitive shooting, including many with ROTC programs and the service academies. Plus, there are college shooting clubs.
For the time being, the club is working to build its numbers. Organizers are trying to obtain a $15,000 grant with Friends of the NRA for additional rifles, jackets, gloves, shoes, and other equipment. Rutledge is also working with USA Shooting, a sanctioning body, and the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP).