The North Gwinnett High School Air Rifle team is one of 120 High School Precision Air Rifle teams in the state. These teams compete on a Varsity level and athletes are eligible to receive college scholarships in their sport.
Coach Steve Hartshorne, along with coaches Robert Herrington, Lauren Herrington, Phil Olsen and Allen Tracer are all Community Coaches – volunteering their time to work with these students. The team works exceptionally hard, with seven team members attending a week long camp at the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) camp in Anniston, AL in July. Additionally, they practice four days a week after school from October through April, a longer season than most sports. The team also travels to weekend matches in Anniston, AL; Griffin, GA; Montgomery, AL; and other locations. This year, they hope to be one of 17 teams competing in the state championship at the Ft Benning US Army facility in Columbus, GA.
Coach Steve, as he is known by the team, stated, “I am so impressed by the work ethic and dedication of these student-athletes. We coaches outline the daily practice structure and drills and then turn most of the work over to our seniors.” He added, “We had a great season last year, setting records for team performance and we are off to another great start this year, including a team record 1138 in a match last week against Riverside Military Academy.”
When asked about what makes a successful Precision Air shooter, Coach Steve said, “of course we emphasize safety. Our practices are coordinated, focused on the proper position, process and mental focus needed to shoot a pellet into a target the size of a pencil eraser 10 meters downrange. And they have to do that in the prone (lying on the ground), standing, and kneeling positions.
Sophomore Matthew Herrington has been active in shooting sports since 3rd grade, following in his older sister and brothers footsteps at North Gwinnett. He has been the top marksman for the Bulldogs this season. He said, “To prepare yourself on match day is a bigger process than most think. This sport is 90% mental, before a match is it especially crucial to get your mindset right. While some plug in their ear buds. others use visualization techniques to get in their right mind.”
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the ‘job’ according to Coach Steve is the quality of the student-athletes on the team. The team at North is comprised of 14 student-athletes, freshmen through seniors, boys and girls. All of these student-athletes are active in other sports, clubs or activities – Orchestra, Theater, Volleyball, Student Government, BETA, DECA, Mock Trial, ROTC and more. Last season 7 of our team members were awarded the Scholar Athlete patch, by virtue of their participating in a Varsity match and having strong academic grades.
The season looks bright for this talented group of athletes. Stay tuned to The Voice to follow along with their season.