In the 1970’s, pop singer Pat Benatar belted out “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and several East Valley youths from Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club junior division did just that at last week’s 2007 Arizona State Junior Olympics Shooting Championships for both air rifle and smallbore rifle.
A quartet of young ladies can add another notch to their lipstick cases after finishing in the top 5 of their events, which were held at Ben Avery Shooting Range and Phoenix Gun Club and featured three clubs and 24 shooters.
“We expect Tanya Gorin, Christine Costello and Joyce Kim to receive invitations to the National Championships, and possibly others depending on how scores from the other states work out,” Ed Roberts, director of the Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club’s junior division said.
Each state conducts Junior Olympic events during November and December, and shooters then qualify for the USA Shooting Junior National Championships in March at Colorado Springs, Colo. The age brackets for juniors are 14 and under, 15-17 and 18-20 years old.
Three of the girls have a long history in the sport.
Gorin won the women’s air rifle competition and finished second in the smallbore event. Costello’s results mirrored Gorin except she won smallbore and was runner-up in air rifle. Both are attending major universities on shooting scholarships.
Gorin is a sophomore at Texas Christian while Costello is a freshman at Nebraska.
Kim, a sophomore at Gilbert Highland High School, finished third (air rifle) and fourth (smallbore). Carly Drake, a senior at Mesa Red Mountain High School who has been involved in the sport for about five years, also had third- (smallbore) and fourth-place (air rifle) finishes.
Gorin has been a shooter for eight years and took up the sport because her father had firearms in the house and it was a way of learning gun safety.
“I enjoy the rifle and felt like I could go somewhere with it and I have,” she said.
The Mesa Mountain View graduate will be making her second trip to nationals and is hoping to qualify for NCAA finals which will be in March.
“The (Rio Salado) club is big on training us to make nationals and be successful in our collegiate careers,” she said.
Costello, who graduated from Queen Creek High School, has been shooting for about seven years.
“I used to go to the club and watch my dad and older brother shoot because I was too young,” she said. “But when I was old enough I knew I wanted to be a part of the fun.
“I think shooting teaches you life skills. You set goals as an individual and it helps you see self worth.”
Roberts echoed her sentiments.
“From shooting sports they learn the ability to set goals, the discipline and focus to reach the goals, and how to win and lose. All these skills are training for the rest of their lives.”
Costello, who is also on an academic scholarship, has been to Junior Olympic nationals five times.
She won her age group category her first time out (at age 12) and was ranked in the top 10 nationally in the smallbore discipline.
Kim called herself a “middle of the pack shooter” at last year’s nationals but is happy to be returning. She has been shooting for about three years.
On the boys side, Fountain Hills High School freshman Ryan Roberts was first in both air rifle and smallbore but his scores might not be high enough to qualify for nationals. The 15-year-old has been shooting for five years.
Nationals is an elite field with only about 65 competitors. Rio Salado has had at least three shooters qualify during the last three years.
“It’s a sport that these kids work really hard at but aren’t allowed to talk about it at school,” Drake’s mother Gail said.
Rio Salado has 46 members who practice every Thursday, but the top kids often practice two to three times per week, according to Roberts. The club has a long history of success at major event including a fifth-place finish in air rifle and eighth place overall in the 164-team 2006 NRA Indoor Junior National Championship.
Other East Valley competitors were: Devin Kramer from Mesa (third, smallbore); Erika Besthoff from Gilbert (fifth, smallbore); Hannah Virga from Chandler (smallbore); Joseph Virga from Chandler (smallbore); and Gage Clark from Apache Junction (air rifle).