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Right on target: student earns pistol shooting scholarship

Madison Hart, print editor-in-chief

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As seniors head to college this fall, many have their eyes set on career goals, but for one senior, he has a different target: a pea-sized mark to shoot from a distance that’s almost the length of a school bus. Bernie Melus, senior, earned a Division I athletic scholarship for his skills in riflery and air pistol, and will be competing for the Ohio State Riflery Team in the air pistol competition over the next four years.
“The consistency that you need [for pistol] is the hardest part because it is a sixty shot match and if you mess up one shot, you basically are done,” Melus said. “The consistency and focus to finish the match strong is definitely difficult.”
Melus’ focus and concentration has had time to develop over his six years of shooting experience. Since he began at the age of twelve, Melus has traveled around the country and trained along side some of the best shooters in the world.
“I would say the best part is definitely meeting the people. When I go and shoot, a lot of times I’m shooting next to the Olympic athletes that just came back from Rio,” Melus said. “I’ve got my junior Olympics coming up this April in Colorado Springs, and I have been to Georgia and Ohio as well for competitions.”
According to Melus, though the sport is not what most people imagine to be a collegiate competition, he has found the people who have been supportive of him while pursuing his shooting talent.
“Usually people don’t know what to say, and the reaction is normally ‘This is a thing? I’ve never heard about this!’” Melus said. “But most people think it’s pretty cool.” Melus has continued pursuing and improving his craft over the years, and eventually began reaching out to college coaches.
“[The recruitment process] is like any other sport. I talked to the coach at first, and she knew I was really interested in this program and she had seen me compete before, so she sent me an offer. I know Texas A&M also had a program for this, but I wasn’t too interested in the school, and I really liked the Ohio State campus,” Melus said.
While Melus will technically be signed to a waiver for rifelry, he specializes in a few specific shooting events.
“In pistol you have all these different types of competitions, and just like track where you have all these different running events, in pistol you have your different pistol events,” Melus said. “The first event is ten meter air where you have an hour and fifteen minutes to make sixty shots from ten meters away, and the ring is just above the size of the pellet, which is 4.5 millimeters.”
Though the idea of being able to spot and fire at a miniscule target may seem difficult, Melus says his form training has given him an improved sense of shot direction on the range.
“I train at home by dry firing, which is where I set up, calm myself, and there’s a dry fire mode on the pistol itself that doesn’t expel any air or anything, and you can just pull the trigger.” Melus said. “You visualize where the shot would go. The better you get, [the better] you can predict where your shot is going to go. I find that [the way to get better] is to train.”
During his high school career, Melus has trained at the Olympic Training Facility alongside elite sportsmen.
“[Shooting in the Olympics] is always a possibility. I guess I’ll just have to see how much I want to dedicate [myself] to this sport in the future,” Melus said. “I think air pistol is going to be something I carry through college, and even after college, that will always be a part of me.”

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Lake Zurich High School Student Media
Right on target: student earns pistol shooting scholarship