At most sporting events when somebody brings a gun out it means the good times are over, but for Mexico senior Ted Martin it means the fun has just begun.
That was especially true this summer when Martin traveled to a marksmanship camp at the Olympic Training Center in Golden Springs, Co., to work with a staff that included Ohio State Head Rifle Coach Ryan Tanoue and Naval Academy Head Rifle coach Mike Anti.
"I practice shooting five or six days a week. It takes up most of my extra time," Martin said. "The camp was for fairly advanced shooters of high school age that had potential in standing. They brought in some of the top shooters in the country to work as counselors. They guided us through things like how to improve your position, how to shoot better, how to have a better shot, the process. Just all sorts of ways to help us improve. It was a really good experience. A little bit crowded, but it was still great."
Because the format for this event ran for about five to six hours a day, Martin and Stepfather Darrell Tucker ate lunch at the training center with individuals like 2016 United States Olympic team member and North Carolina State rifle team member Lucas Kozeniesky. Also in attendance was 2017 NCAA National Rifle Champion Morgan Phillips from West Virginia and an advisor from the Air Force Academy, which is on the short list of colleges Martin hopes to compete for on the rifle team.
"When it comes to shooting, I'm best at knowing what I'm comfortable with and getting into that position fairly quickly," said Martin. "That's what helped me the most, when prone or kneeling I can find the most efficient position to shoot and get that process down quickly. There is actually a set time period you have to switch positions during an actual competition."
In order to qualify for this Civilian Marksmanship Program camp Martin, 17, had to attend an initial clinic last year and meet the requirements of that event. That led to this camp in coordination with USA Shooting, which was specific to air rifles, even though he also competes in .22 caliber rifle events.
"Whether a program uses air rifles or .22 caliber is generally about what that organization believes in and the funding they have available," Martin said. "There are actually some rules in place with different institutions, such as the JROTC. They aren't allowed to shoot .22 caliber here in Missouri because of an accident that occurred."
One aspect of this sport that's somewhat unique is the individual nature of the competition. Even at team events shooters perform one at a time and then combine final scores. There are plenty of elements to this pursuit common to other endeavors, though, including a focus on physical fitness and nutrition, both of which helped former camp grad Ginny Thrasher win a 2016 Olympic Gold Medal in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in the Women's 10 Meter Air Rifle.
"When you're shooting, it's only you. You not supposed to have anyone help you unless you actually leave the firing line to have your coach assist you with something," said Martin. "Even then, they're not allowed to follow you to the firing line. They have to leave you so you can do it on your own."
The way Martin got started down this path was with his stepfather, Tucker, about three years ago in the basement of their previous home. That's when he was allowed to show what he could do with a BB gun and a book. While that beginning might not seem memorable, it absolutely spawned a passion that's allowed Martin's self confidence and personal discipline to soar.
"When I started to do OK my stepdad suggested I join the JROTC Air Rifle Team they have at Moberly High School. That was my big start in shooting," Martin said. "Whenever I go to competitions a lot of the shooting community is very friendly. They're very open to helping you improve. There aren't many aspects that might prevent someone from becoming a top shooter. You don't have to be tall or muscular. You just have to put in the time and effort. It's very rewarding to see yourself improve."