Senior shooter finds success as rifle popularity rises

Jenny Rohl/The News Senior Kelsey Emme practices shooting Wednesday at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.
Jenny Rohl/The News Senior Kelsey Emme practices shooting Wednesday at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Senior Kelsey Emme practices shooting Wednesday at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

Kelsey Emme began her career as a competitive shooter the day her dad gave her a BB gun at age 4, leading to her success as a collegiate and junior Olympic rifle team member.

Emme said she begins a typical match by imagining herself having  perfect scores. Emme said she goes through all her positions and reassures herself that she knows what she’s doing.

“I get to the arena and immediately set up on the line,” Emme said. “I stretch and listen to music. My goal is to keep myself in a good state of mind and try to calm my nerves.”

Emme said she prepares for smallbore first and then air rifle. In the smallbore competition, athletes are judged on shooting 20 shots in three different positions; kneeling, prone and standing. Air rifle is judged shooting all 60 shots standing. Shooters are scored on how accurate their shot is on the automated target, which shows immediate results on a monitor in the range.

Unlike other sports, rifle is not given places during each match. Points are awarded and at the end of the season they are given averages and the shooters are placed based on those points. The higher the score, the closer to the target the shooter was.

Emme has shot with her dad since she was young, and in middle school she joined a club team 30 miles from her home. Growing up, she played three other sports as well. A typical day after school for Emme was to attend volleyball practice, basketball practice, golf practice then drive the 30 miles from her hometown of Piedmont, S.D., to Rapid City, S.D., to rifle practice.

“Coming to college I had to decide what I wanted to do,” Emme said. “I looked at the sports and had to decide what I could do everyday for the next four years. I felt like I could put everything I had into rifle and still love it.”

Since Emme began her rifle career, she has been to the Bavarian Airgun Championships in Germany where she finished eighth and she also competed in the USA Shooting Nationals, where she was named the Junior Champion in air rifle and finished fourth overall in the competition.

“I’ve come pretty far since my freshman year,” Emme said. “I’ve learned to not pressure myself. Everyday won’t be a good day; I’ve learned to just play my hardest every match.”

Rifle is a rising sport on campus, according to Emme. She said she has seen more people take an interest.

“My freshman year people would tell me they didn’t know there was a rifle team,” Emme said. “Now when I mention it people tell me they’ve not only heard of the team but that we’re good.”

Emme said the Olympic Committee changed the way it presents rifle matches by making the scores in real-time feedback. According to Emme, this change makes the sport more appealing to the crowd. Spectators can sit in the stands and watch as the scores instantly appear with the shooters’ names automatically moving higher or lower on the scoreboard as the numbers come in.

“It’s a slow sport to watch,” Emme said. “Because they changed the way it’s presented, there are a lot more people willing to sit through a match. It’s definitely a rising sport.”

As Emme’s last semester approaches, she said she’s had a successful college career in rifle and her memories are something she will always take with her.

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor