Walsh invited to national competition
Hannah Walsh received an unexpected gift this week: an invitation to compete with the nation’s best at the National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships.
Walsh, a sophomore at Wolford School, was invited to compete in the girls air pistol division as an at-large selection. Walsh’s score of 294 at the state championship wasn’t enough for an automatic qualifier, but she was selected to fill open spots in the field.
“It’s a really big honor, actually,” Walsh said. “I was very surprised that I was accepted, but they ended up not having a few people, so they took some more right under the qualifying score.”
Walsh, who has competed for two years in air rifle, only took up the pistol discipline this season. Now she’s headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the national competition April 9-15.
“I’ve never been to Colorado, so it should be a pretty great experience,” Walsh said. “I just want to go there and have fun and do the best that I can and maybe even get a place somewhere.”
Walsh is the first member of the Wolves to advance to the national stage (rifle or pistol) in the program’s six-year history. Pistol can be more challenging for newcomers, but Wolford coach Bill Langer regularly encourages his air rifle specialists to try pistol too.
“It’s one of those things where we don’t have a lot of participation in North Dakota,” Langer said, “so I encouraged that if you can pick it up and be reasonably successful that you’d have a good shot at making it to nationals.
“I guess I’d have to say (she’s) as natural as you can be at doing something like that. She picked it up quickly with holding the pistol and having a relaxed position.”
Walsh will shoot on electronic target for the first time, but anticipates an advantage over the printable targets.
“I think I’ll enjoy it because it will be a clean slate every time and if you have a bad shot you won’t focus on that,” she said.
At the state championships last month, Langer pointed out Walsh to assistant national juinor pistol coach Eric Pueppke, who also coaches the North Dakota State University club pistol team.
“He looked at her and asked how long she’d been shooting and how much, and I said she’s been shooting about a month,” Langer said.
“I’m, of course, very proud because she picked up a new shooting discipline and seems to be pretty adapted to it, and tried her best and was actually pretty surprised. You never know where those invitation scores will go. She took up a challenge and succeeded.”
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