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Outdoor Life: Tell us about your big win.
Annabelle Stanec: I competed in the NRA 3-Position Air Gun Championship in Albuquerque last year. I took first place out of 100 individual qualifiers from across the country. Our team, the Ashland Eagles Junior Rifle Club, also took first place.
OL: How long have you been shooting?
AS: I started shooting when I was 9. My grandpa was a precision shooter when he was young, and in college. He passed that tradition to my older sister. She was going to all these cool matches, and I got interested too. I started practicing on my own, and by the time I was 12, I was scoring high enough that they added me to the team.
OL: What do you shoot?
AS: I use a .22 or an air rifle for precision shooting—it depends on the event. Air rifle is my passion, but sometimes it’s good to get back into small bore. The recoil is different, but both are exciting.
OL: What does a day of practice look like?
AS: I look at my upcoming matches, and what each will focus on. Then I’ll think about what I want to work on. I don’t practice the positions I’ve already got down very much. I’m really good at kneeling and prone—I shoot high 90s or 100s—but I always have to work on standing shots. At home I do holding exercises with my gun for stability to minimize wobbling. At the range I’ll shoot in groups to dial in my natural point of aim, and then I start shooting targets. Sometimes we’ll work on drills as a team, and go over our weaknesses from the past match.
OL: So what is your biggest weakness?
AS: Time. I tend to take my time on every shot, and sometimes that gets the best of me because I have to rush at the end.
OL: What do you do before each shot?
AS: I usually try to calm my nerves and any shaking. I pull my head to the side, close my eyes, try to relax, turn my face to the sights, and open my eyes to find my natural point of aim. Usually I’m perfectly centered.
OL: What’s the best piece of advice your coach, Stan Nelsen, ever gave you?
AS: Every day he tells me to do the best I can do. It really takes the pressure off.
OL: What’s next?
AS: I try to go to the same matches every year. I’ll see my score from the previous year, and I’m always amazed how much better I’m shooting than before. I want to expand my knowledge and really get to know shooting. I want to learn more, but not be super deliberate—just explore and have fun. Maybe I’ll pursue this as a career, or keep it as a hobby. Anything is possible.