LOWELL - A Lowell teenager who just wrapped up his first season of competitive air rifle shooting has earned a spot in the National Junior Olympic Three-Position Air Rifle Championships to be held later this month in Alabama.
Michael Steinel, 15, will travel with four other young Ohioans to the competition, being held from June 23 to July 1 at the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) Marksmanship Center in Anniston, Ala. He will compete every day for five days in a row.
"So far he has shot in Youngstown, Minerva, Camp Perry, at the Ohio State University in Columbus and also Palmyra, Pa.," said his father, Scott, 48. "He placed high enough in the open (in Minerva) that he was invited to the Junior Olympics."
Photo by Ashley Rittenhouse
Michael Steinel, 15, practices with an air rifle at the Fort Harmar Rifle Club in Marietta. Steinel will compete in the National Junior Olympic Three-Position Air Rifle Championships later this month in Alabama.
Scott Steinel added there will be competitors ages 12 to 19 from all over the United States at the competition.
The week before going to the championships Michael will train with air rifle coaches from the University of Akron, a former Ohio State University air rifle coach and others.
"I'm excited," he said. "The match is going to be great but I'm looking forward to the training because hopefully it will bump me up a few points."
He said his interest in guns started when he was 6-years-old after shooting a B.B. gun at Cub Scout day camp.
"I did well so I went to 4-H when I was old enough - 9-years-old - and I started shooting a smallbore rifle, a .22 (caliber)," he said.
He and his dad learned there are more competitions offered for air rifle than smallbore rifles, so he shifted his focus.
The air rifle he will be using in the championships in Alabama is a Walther LG 300 Alutec, a single-shot rifle using compressed air from a detachable cylinder located below the barrel as its sole propellant source.
"Most people when you tell them he shoots an air rifle they think of a Red Rider B.B. gun but this is the (same type) that won the Olympics in Beijing," Scott Steinel noted.
In the competition he will shoot tiny pellets at a target from 33 feet away in three different positions, standing, lying down and kneeling.
The best score he can get is a 600 and he has been practicing hard at the Fort Harmar Rifle Club on Waterford Road in Marietta with hopes of reaching that number.
"My record is a 578," Steinel said. "I'm here about three to four nights a week about three to four hours each of those nights. Pretty much my only night off is for (Boy) Scouts."
He even watches his sugar intake, as the slightest shake in his hand could mean missing the target.
"When you bring your hand to the rifle if you move it a quarter inch to the right it'll mess up the whole shot," he said.
Not just any outfit will do, either. He wears a canvas jacket and leather pants that keep his body stiff and boots with square toes so when he kneels he can stay balanced. Ear and eye protection are also required.
Michael is still involved with 4-H Shooting Sports and there are eight youngsters on his local team ranging in age from 12 to 17. Two former members of the team went on to The Ohio State University, joining the air rifle team there.
Although it requires a lot of practice, discipline and consistency, Steinel said when the time comes he plans to participate in air rifle competitions at the college level. His father pointed out there are college scholarships awarded for air rifle.
His ultimate dream, he said, is to compete in the Olympic Games.
"Alabama is my last match of the season then it's just practice, practice, practice until next season," he said.