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SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah pistol team had their best performance at the national college championships in its history, taking home several individual and team awards.
The U. of U. started offering a pistol marksmanship class in 1991 and organized it as a formal sport club that began competing, according to U. of U. pistol team assistant coach Matt DeLong. The team now has eight members, four of which competed at the National Inter-Collegiate Pistol Championship on March 22-27 at Fort Benning, Georgia, DeLong said.
Junior Alexis Lagan joined the team during her freshman year at the U. of U. She said she grew up shooting guns and now practices between five and 30 hours a week at a range. Along with requiring excellent aim, Lagan said the competitions require a lot of concentration and mental focus.
“I’ve read several books on keeping my focus,” she said. “You have to visualize a lot of what you want to do when you go to these competitions… You have to be prepared mentally to compete at such a high level of concentration… it’s so much focus and you get so tired from it.”
At the national competition, Lagan competed in five events, including team and individual events in the air pistol, free pistol and sport pistol. The air pistol event requires shooters to fire 60 shots within 1 hour and 45 minutes at a target with a “9 ring,” placed 50 meters away, Lagan said.
“So, at 50 meters, you are basically shooting at a nickel,” she said. “I mean, it’s pretty awesome.”
The women’s air pistol event also requires shooters to fire 60 shots within 1 hourand 45 minutes, but the event requires a .177 caliber pistol and the target ring is the size of a pencil eraser, placed 10 meters away, Lagan said. The women’s sport pistol event includes two portions: a rapid-fire event where in less than 3 seconds shooters fire a shot at a target that is 3.5 inches in diameter placed 25 meters away, and a precision event where shooters have five minutes to fire five shots at a smaller target.
Lagan won the women’s aggregate competition, the silver medal in the women’s sport pistol and the bronze in the women’s air pistol, DeLong said. She was also awarded three all-American awards.
U. of U. sophomore Wyatt Brown also won several individual events at the national competition. He won the men’s open air pistol and free pistol competitions. He also brought home all-American honors in all three open events and took second place in the aggregate of those events, DeLong said.
“To win air pistol, Wyatt had to put more than half of his shots into a circle less than half an inch in diameter, 33 feet away, shooting one-handed with a pistol,” Delong said. “This sport is all about focus, concentration and mental discipline.”
The team also won two team events and finished fourth overall at the competition.
“The team had, by far, their best performance in their 20-year history,” DeLong said. “Next year, we should win the national championship.”
Lagan was also invited to compete in the Pistol World Cup for Collegiates in July and she hopes to eventually compete on the U.S. Olympic team.