Eleven Prince Albert area shooters are participating in the Canadian National Pistol Championship this weekend.
Christine King, Jeremy Gyeorick, Michelle Stewart, Cory Lavigne, Harvey Lavigne, Grant Lavigne, SueLynn Lavigne, Chris Klemens, Drew Nevland, Quinten Saunders, Tianna Stewart and Shana Webb made their way to the anuual event.
Three of the club's top shots, Gyoerick, King and Stewart, were at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation range north of the city on Wednesday as coach Gordon King put them through their paces.
Gyoerick has been shooting for six years, and at 18 is a veteran of nationals. He earned a first in the sport pistol event and a second in air pistol last year.
"This year I'm pretty excited," he said. "I'm shooting in new events and getting ready to make the national team, hopefully this year."
It's a common thread among the trio.
King, 21, is trying to balance university with her training. The former member of the national developmental team for two years and the national junior team is hoping to earn a spot at the university games in 2013. She also wants back on the developmental team.
As a junior, she won the 10-metre air pistol twice and the sport pistol three times at nationals. In 2011, she competed as a senior lady for the first time, and met her goal of earning a top eight finish.
Now she's aiming for the top six in nationals.
"That's been my goal all year so hopefully I can accomplish that," she said.
Stewart, 39, is the oldest of the three but a relative newcomer to the sport. After taking it up a year and a half ago with her children, she's hooked.
"To me it's fun," she says. "The camaraderie of everybody that we shoot with ... everybody is friendly and fun to be around. Yes, we compete against each other but at the end of the day we all go out for dinner and have fun and joke around."
In the entry level events at nationals in 2011, she earned a first and a second. Her strong results have pushed her up a level this year.
"I'm hoping to make the national developmental team this year but because I'm relatively new at shooting it may not happen this year, it may be next year," she says. "We'll see what happens."
The qualification system is easy. Once you're a member of the Shooting Federation of Canada, you can go to nationals.
Like golf, shooters are handicapped according to abilities, in expert, intermediate or entry levels. The tiering is based on prior scores at matches across Canada.
In Saskatchewan there are six matches a year but local athletes can use scores earned anywhere in Canada.
At nationals, there are a number of events.
• Air pistol, men’s and ladies’.
• Sport pistol, ladies.
• Standard pistol, men.
• Centre fire, men.
• Free pistol, men.
• Olympic rapid fire, men.
The scoring seems simple — obviously closer to the middle is better — but the actual scoring system varies by the event. In the finals, the scoring is broken down into fractions based on where inside of the lines the shot landed.
King said there's surprisingly little difference from competing in a regional event to stepping up to nationals.
"It's virtually the same group of people but it's larger scale," she says. "I don't really get stressed out, pressure-wise. I really view this sport as fun."
Gyoerick is participating in the free pistol, which involves firing a .22 calibre handgun at 50 metres.
He recently enrolled in a University of Saskatchewan program through SIAST, making him eligible to shoot at the 2012 World University Games in Russia in a few weeks.
After earning a spot on that team, nationals will be a final tuneup for him.
"I hope to compete well," he says. "Scorewise, I want to make the cut scores to make the team. Placement wise I would like to get first but my goal is to make the national team and do really well."
Gyoerick is fortunate to have a pair of sponsors — Rally Motor Sports and Medicentre Pharmacy — to help defray his costs.
Gordon King says that shooters can spend thousands on their equipment, but results come from a steady hand.
"It's about five per cent equipment and 95 per cent concentration."
While shooting is ultimately an individual sport, the team concept is something important to all three.
"The pressure is only on me and I don't have to rely on teammates for me to do a good job," Stewart says. "So if I don't train enough, then it's my own fault. It's not that I trained hard all day and my teammates didn't."
Christine King echoes Stewart's thoughts, adding that seeing herself and those around grow in ability doesn’t hurt.
"I look back to when I was 12 and I didn't really want to shoot so I took a year off," she says. "When I came back I saw myself go in two years to the most improved shooter provincially and then when I was 17 I went to Canada Winter Games and when I was 18 I went to Youth Commonwealth. Seeing myself progress through that and now watching ... I've been shooting with Jeremy since he was 12 and it's amazing to see how far everybody's come."
The club, which always accepts new members, is at the indoor range on Monday nights for air pistol and the outdoor range on Wednesdays for live fire.