KINGMAN - When the 2012 Olympic Games in London begin, there's a possibility Kingman could be represented and have the very first athlete to perform at those games. Brittney Gaskill is literally shooting for the Olympics.
Gaskill, 16, will be in South El Monte, Calif., Saturday for the USA Shooting International Preliminary Tryouts at the Los Angeles Rifle and Revolver Club. Her goal: Advance to the USA Olympic Trials in the 50-meter women's three-position rifle and the 10-meter air rifle. Gaskill's short history in the sport and passion for it makes it easy to believe she can do it.
"Most definitely, yes," Gaskill said. "I've reached the scores before."
A score of 565 out of 600 Saturday will automatically qualify Gaskill for the trials. "I shot 554 as a freshman," she said. "And I've gotten better."
Gaskill disappears into her own world when she's shooting. It's where she's able to put the daily grind of her life aside for a short time.
"When I'm up there at the line, it's just me, my rifle, my ammo and the target," Gaskill said. "It's an escape from the reality of the world just so I can have some of my own time."
It was only by accident that Gaskill found her love for the sport. When she lived in New Albany, Ind., she told her mother, Stacie Crowley, that she wanted to go out for the NAHS rifle team.
"I thought I would be spinning rifles," Gaskill said.
She went to a meeting one day after school and sat through a safety meeting. She wasn't sure what that meeting had to do with spinning rifles, but figured it was required because they were dealing with guns. After the meeting, Gaskill was led to a multipurpose room where she saw people shooting.
"I went home that day and told my mom I wouldn't be spinning rifles, I'd be shooting them," Gaskill said.
Her mother took it all in stride. Crowley said she didn't have any preconceived notions about shooting.
"It didn't bother me at all," Crowley said. "I thought it was kind of interesting. Instead of a soccer mom, I became a rifle-team mom."
Making her mark
It didn't take Gaskill long to figure out she found a place where she could excel. She was the first freshman ever to make the varsity rifle team at NAHS and was the youngest participant at nationals in 2008, which was held at Ft. Benning, Ga.
NAHS finished third in the Navy Division, and Gaskill was 24th overall out of more than 300 participants.
"Everybody says she has a raw natural talent for this," Crowley said.
The raw natural talent is the way Gaskill is able to balance the $2,000 Anschutz rifle, which Gaskill named "Jersey," her stepfather Charles Crowley said.
"She's one with the rifle," he said. "She's what they call a sensitive shooter."
An added benefit shooting has to offer is the abundance of college scholarships available to shooters. Schools such as Nevada-Reno, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA and the military academies all offer scholarships in the NCAA sanctioned sports. It's another avenue that Gaskill is pursuing.
"There are tons of scholarships," Charles said. "We're crossing our fingers for West Point."
Shooting is just like any other sport out there; it requires a lot of preparation to be ready for the big events. Practice, training, diet and coaching are all things that Gaskill has to utilize to make her Olympic dream come true.
Gaskill said she tries to shoot every day, but when she can't make it out to the range, she'll practice her positions - kneeling, prone and standing - at home.
"Practice has been going really good," she said. "I've been working on my standing, and I'm getting better."
The sport also requires physical training, which is right up Gaskill's alley. "It's my thing," she said.
Meals have already been planned for Gaskill in anticipation for Saturday's shoot. Friday's dinner will consist of pasta and her Saturday breakfast will be milk, dried fruits and nuts.
When Gaskill moved from Indiana, she found herself in the market for a shooting coach. Paul Thiele of Las Vegas heard about her, looked up her scores from the national competition and declared he would coach Gaskill without having met her. Thiele was ready to retire, but when he found Gaskill he quickly unretired.
Gaskill said Thiele has been able to teach her how to block out her surroundings while shooting and makes her strive for perfection.
"Perfect is in my vocabulary," Gaskill said.
Thiele told the family they may want to plan on being in London come 2012.
"He told me there would be five Olympic tickets available," Charles said. "We get four and he gets one."