Kyra Ledbetter || Staff writer
For Olympic shooter Jamie Lynn Gray, the difference between a heartbreaking loss in Beijing and earning gold in London was in the preparation for one high-stakes shot.
After coming in fourth in air rifle and fifth in 50 meter three-position rifle, missing bronze by a combined 1.8 points, Gray had four years to think about that shot; the shot that would have sent her home with an Olympic medal instead of empty hands.
This year in London, Gray was again presented with that shot. She needed her to score at least an 8.3 to leave the range with gold. She shot a 10.8.
Afterward Gray said she’d spent the last four years preparing to avenge that last disappointing shot, and in London she took it.
Sophomore shooter Kelsey Emme has also been preparing to take that shot.
Though the stage was smaller, this June Emme too saw her preparation pay off with gold when she won the 2012 USA Shooting Junior Air Rifle National Championship.
In the first two days of competition Emme was sturdy, shooting a 390 out of a possible 400 the first day and then improving to a 393 the second to clinch a position in the finals. Though her scores were good enough to carry her to the next round, they were not nearly good enough for Emme.
“The scores I shot weren’t what I had hoped for,” she said. “I knew that I could shoot better than that, but then I was also so happy that I made the finals, then going into the finals I just wanted to shoot the best that I could. My first ten shots were center tens. It was just good to be in that top spot and shoot from there.”
The last round of competition was a short 10 shots, with each shot scored to the tenth of a point, with 10.9 being the highest possible score.
Before the finals, Alan Lollar, head coach of Racer rifle, said Emme looked ready.
Emme scored an even 103. She also went on to compete in the open final. Emme ended up placing seventh with a score of 101.3.
“I’d been training and working on shooting from those higher spots so that it wasn’t scary or stressful when I got there,” Emme said. “So it was just an achievement, it wasn’t a shock or stressful. I’d practiced being in that situation a lot, and I also had coach to talk to, to help me get my mind right back in the game instead of letting it wander out. Overall, though, since I trained for it, it wasn’t as hard.”
Better still, Emme’s win makes her Olympic aspirations that much more likely.
“Kelsey’s in a really good time frame, because the next Olympics will come along just as she’s graduating,” Lollar said. “She’s got another three years here, and then she’ll be finished with college, which is a really nice thing, and then she’ll be peaking at the right time to take that next year and concentrate on shooting, as opposed to shooters this year who are still in college, who would have to deal with their college and national season at once.”
Seeing the Olympic shooting competitions this summer made Emme all the more confident she’s capable of competing with the best if she stays the course.
“I got to watch the women’s air rifle final and the men’s smallbore final,” Emme said. “It was good to watch, but also good to know that I can shoot those scores as long I can keep the consistency up. I can also shoot those scores in the final as well. I just knew that I could do that and was rooting on the US team.”
This season, Emme will return to Racer rifle as a sophomore shooter beginning with a home match against UT Martin and Columbus State University Sept. 30.