Four earn invitation to Junior Olympic National Championships

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal
Pictured from left to right, Brandon Alexander, Max Schuh, Maria Rosa-Nieves, and Jacob Vaagen.

Four young people from Devils Lake have distinguished themselves in the world of competitive shooting.

Those four are members of the Lake Region Shooting Sports Association.

As junior air rifle and air pistol shooters they have earned the opportunity to compete in the USA Shooting Junior Olympic National Championships. These junior national championships are held each year in April at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.

These shooters are Brandon Alexander, Max Schuh, Maria Rosa-Nieves, and Jacob Vaagen.

Competitors in the Junior National Championships are selected based on the scores that they fire in selection matches across the United States each year. USA Shooting compiles all of the scores fired by the junior shooters in these selection matches and then issues invitations to the top ranking shooters.

Alexander, Rosa-Nieves and Vaagen will compete in the Air Rifle Matches and Schuh will compete in the Air Pistol Matches.

They train with the Lake Region Shooting Sports Association and the Ramsey County 4H Shooting Sports club.

Rosa-Nieves has been a member of the LRSSA for the last five years. According to Rick Jorgenson, one of the organization’s leaders and certified coaches, she shot so well last year she should have qualified for the Olympic Junior Development Team. However, so many young women excell at this sport that she did not get an invitation.

This will be Rosa-Nieves’s first opportunity to go to Colorado Springs, but her qualifying score was actually high enough to earn her an automatic invitation.

Alexander, Vaagen and Schuh all competed in these junior national championships last year. Alexander and Vaagen have been involved in the LRSSA for three years and Schuh has participated for about two and a half years.

Jorgenson pointed out that more than a sport, shooting sports is a discipline. “It is a positive experience for young people,” he added.

It is also a gender-equity sport with young men and young women competing with one another, Jorgenson said. However, on a national level they do separate competitions by gender.

The top two finishers in each match, air rifle and air pistol, will be named to the development team for the U.S. junior Olympic Team. If they stay in and continue to perform well they will compete on both a national and international level. “It’s a stage of progression,” Jorgenson explains how shooters, like those from Devils Lake, could eventually qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team. However, he says the experience of going to Colorado Springs and the training center alone is a memorable experience. Last year was the first time participants from Devils Lake went to Colorado in the past 20 years.

Jorgenson has been involved in the sport most of his life. Back in 1978 he was a competitive shooter, himself. It evolved into a sport he and his family could participate in.

“I’ve been doing this for a really long time,” he said.

It takes precision and discipline to be successful. The center of the target for the air rifle shooters, like Alexander, Vaagen and Rosa-Nieves, is the same size as the tip of a ball-point pen.

For the pistol shooters, like Schuh, it is a little larger, a circle approximately half the size of a dime.

This is not a school sanctioned sport, therefore when these young people hope to participate in events like the one in April, they must take it upon themselves to have their homework done and their absence approved by their teachers and the high school principal.

It is a rare opportunity for students to get to go to an event like this and train in the same facility that the athletes who go to the Olympics use.

Individual shooters from around North Dakota will be competing in the state championship competition to be held here in Devils Lake March 5 and 6.