PORT ANGELES — Cheyenne Maggard has been rubbing shoulders with gold medalists as she continues to take aim at her own goal of Olympic glory.
The Port Angeles teen is an accurate precision air rifle shooter and recently competed in the first stage of USA Shooting’s Olympic Trials for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics.
She didn’t advance to the second stage of Olympic qualification — this time.
But Maggard’s goal remains in sight.
“A few years into shooting, I went to a precision shooting camp in Oregon and they told us to write down a distant goal and my goal was to go to the 2024 Olympics,” Maggard said.
Her dad Brent, who doubles as one of her shooting coaches, said the more comfortable and familiar a shooter is at a high-level competition such as the Olympic Trials, the more likely to achieve higher scores.
“This year it was really a matter of going and becoming familiar with those people. As you meet them the star factor diminishes. You realize they are just people and you become comfortable in that type of environment and around that level of shooter. And there are lots of NCAA athletes there to learn from. Cheyenne has a good friend who last year was shooting for West Point [Army] and another in Mary Tucker [of the University of Kentucky] who took first place at the Olympic trials.
“It’s a pretty safe bet that she will know some members of the U.S. Olympic team this summer.”
That includes Olympia’s Dave Lowe, who competed for the U.S. Men’s team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 10M Air Rifle gold medalist Ginny Thrasher.
Brent, picking up some “cool Dad” points, saw Thrasher walking ahead of Cheyenne and her teammates on the Oak Harbor-based Sabertooth Shooting Squad and asked if Thrasher had a moment.
A recent West Virginia University graduate, Trasher is just a few years older than the Sabertooth team members.
“I got to meet her when I went to the Winter Air [competition],” Cheyenne said. “My dad introduced me to her. I was kind of shocked and definitely kind of shy when I met her. She’s really nice, all the high-end shooters are nice and kind. She was incredible.
She encouraged me and last year she told me ‘to enjoy the experience, take it all in and next year come back and win it.”
Maggard and her Sabertooth teammates qualified as a team for next week’s Junior Rifle National Championships hosted by the Army’s Markmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Ga.
The Sabertooth team finished third at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Regional Championship in Utah, with Maggard coming in 16th individually.
Maggard and her teammates will compete in the 10m Air Rifle, aiming for the top score in 60 standing shots, and the 50m smallbore in kneeling, seated and prone positions.
“I’m looking forward to shooting at a competition I’ve never been to on a military base with my team,” Maggard said. “And all the new experiences that will happen there. A week later I’m going to be leaving for Navy Nationals which I qualified for last year as an individual through NJROTC [Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps] program with Port Angeles High School. This time I’ll be going to Arizona for that match.”
And Maggard, who started shooting when she was age 5 with her dad, is invested in her chosen sport.
She shoots a Pardini air rifle and an Anschutz smallbore .22-caliber rimfire rifle, pricy pieces of sporting equipment.
“She spent years worth of birthday and christmas money and from baby sitting,” Brent Maggard said. “She babysat for one of the church’s women’s groups and that paid for a good portion.”
Maggard wanted to be absolutely sure his daughter wanted to pursue shooting sports before she spent her hard-earned cash.
“You can’t be doing this for dad,” Maggard said. “I asked her, ‘Is your heart really in this and are you doing it for the right reasons?’ When she stepped up and offered to contribute, I knew she was in it because she’s kind of a tightwad.”
And with scores that equal or better athletes already competing at the college level with NCAA shooting sports teams, Maggard may be able to write her own scholarship ticket in a few years.
As of early 2019, a total of 31 schools ranging from NCAA Division I powerhouses like West Virginia, Texas Christian and Kentucky, to National Junior College Athletic Associations field women’s college rifle teams.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].