GVSU shooting club qualifies for first ever appearance in NRA Championship

GVL / Courtesy - The Shooting Club

GVL / Courtesy – The Shooting Club

Brendan McMahon

The GVSU Shooting Club had a performance for the record books in the NRA Intercollegiate Indoor Metric Position Smallbore Rifle Sectional and Precision Air Rifle Standing Sectional Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Jackson County Sportsman’s Club.

The Lakers’ four-man smallbore team finished second overall in the sectional with a score of 1,967. The air rifle team finished second overall as well, with a score of 2,095.

Not only were these scores hundreds of points better than years past, these results were good enough for the Lakers to qualify for their first ever appearance in the NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championship.

“I am very proud of everything they have accomplished, the have worked exceptionally hard to get to this point,” said GVSU coach Cameron Zwart. “It’s a big deal. It’s a tremendous deal for the program, it’s a tremendous deal for these individuals, and it’s a big deal for the school.”

The air rifle team consisted of sophomore Christian Yap, Joseph Lentine, freshman Alexander Straith and David Cantillon.

Yap led the team with a 536 score out of 600, just a couple rankings behind him was Lentine with a 532. The Lakers finished 115 points above the qualifying score of 1,980.

The Lakers shot so well in the first relay of the air rifle that both players and coaches felt relief and confidence that they almost certainly would qualify for the championship.

“It was a relief for everyone because once you qualify in one match you’ve earned your trip,” Zwart said. “It took the stress of off them for the rest of the day and the rest of the smallbore match because they already punched their ticket.”

The smallbore team was made up of Lentine, Cantillon, Ethan Potts, and Alex Cyburt. The Lakers relied on the steady consistency of Lentine and Cantillon.

“The sport itself is individual but we succeed as a team,” Lentine said. “We have a very close bond between all of us which definitely helps when we’re on the line at tournament.”

The team collectively over came some adversity in the smallbore match where there were a few poorly executed shots. However, the Lakers spend time focusing on mental toughness and not allowing previous shots to affect their future ones.

“One bad shot isn’t going to ruin your day. You need to focus on the next shot and executing all the other ones,” Zwart said.

The smallbore score of 1,967 was 167 points over the qualifying score and put them well ahead of third place Michigan State.

“It’s a pretty amazing experience but we still have a lot of work to do in order to shoot better,” Cantillon said. “But overall, I couldn’t be happier with all we accomplished so far.”

From finishing the 2014 season with just three members in the club to qualifying for their first ever national championship, the shooting club has come a long way.

“Seeing our team grow and progress year to year has been an amazing accomplishment, just the progress all my teammates have made, I couldn’t be happier right now,” Cantillon said.

The Lakers have done enough celebrating and they are focusing their attention to preparing for the championship. Dedication from the team will be no issue—Zwart is impressed with the amount of time his team spends practicing at the range. Shooters even stay an hour or two after practice time on day that the range owner allows.

“We need to stick with the program,” Zwart said. “Practicing, practicing, practicing. There are couple things we are going to refine to eliminate some mistakes.”

Before the Lakers go to Georgia to compete in the NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championship they first want to win the conference championship, which takes place Sunday, Feb. 26 at Purdue University.