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Young shooters aiming high in local rifle league

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 7:42 p.m.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Brandon Meier, 16, of Irwin, member of Post 228 Junior Rifle Team practices at the Irwin Sportsmen's Club on Monday, April 15, 2013.

These kids are thinking big.

Last season, the Irwin Post 228 rifle team, the only all-junior squad in the seven-team Pittsburgh and Suburban Rifle League, finished in third place. That was its best showing ever.

This year, the team wants to move higher in the standings.

“We've definitely got a lot of potential,” said Irwin's Sarah Fink, a 16-year-old from Manor. “We've got a lot of young shooters who have a chance to make a name for themselves. I know we're going to try pretty hard.”

Finishing higher than third won't be easy, not with perennial powers Frazier-Simplex and Dormont-Mt. Lebanon in the way. Frazier-Simplex went 18-0 in winning last year's league title; Dormont-Mt. Lebanon finished second (15-3) with its only losses coming to the champs.

But Irwin's shooters have become more competitive with those teams, Irwin coach Bob Cain said.

“It's going to be a real interesting year for us,” he said. “I'm looking for big things.”

For Irwin Post 228, the emphasis always has been on creating young shooters first and on winning second, Cain said. For a while, the former didn't produce the latter.

The team once went more than 100 matches — the equivalent of six seasons — without a victory.

An increase in the volunteer coaching staff and a new focus on the mechanics of bone and muscle structure and how it relates to shooting from different positions has paid off, Cain said.

Instructors are also quick to emphasize positive results, touting the idea that “effort equals outcome.”

Most shooters have bought in, practicing three and four days a week.

One, Samantha Dickson, a freshman at Jeannette High School, said her scores climbed from about 230 out of 300 when she started to the high 280s last season. Her goal this season is to shoot in the mid-290s.

“It's fun,” Dickson said. “You get to shoot guns. You get to meet new people. And you get to travel to a lot of new places.”

Such enthusiasm is wonderful to hear as training a new generation of shooters remains as important as ever, Cain said.

“It's nice to win,” he said. “But the whole point of this is to get junior shooters pulling triggers and maybe passing this along to the next generation.”

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