Ikes in Action: Junior Pistol Program Thrives in Northern Virginia

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Virginia >> The League’s Arlington-Fairfax Chapter (ARL-FX) sponsors the NoVA Sharpshooters Junior Pistol Program, located in Centreville, Virginia. The Program introduces athletes to the international shooting sports of 10-meter air pistol and 25-meter sport pistol with the goal to qualify for and attend the annual National Junior Olympics, held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Men's Air Pistol - credit Mark BudgeonMen’s Air Pistol: Left to right: Derek Liddle - Bronze; Ethan Jardines - Silver; Bhavjeet Sanghera - State Champion; and Chapter President Tom Ciarula

In September 2017, NoVA Sharpshooters’ coach Mark Budgeon and guest coach In Kim from the Bridge Junior Shooting Club in La Puente, California, hosted a free, two-day air pistol clinic at ARL-FX’s Sills Air Range. Ten Virginia-based athletes became serious competitors, and, by the end of the year, five were selected to attend the 2018 Junior Olympics.

Word spread about this early success. Parents and athletes learned about the Program through word of mouth, ARL-FX’s new member orientations and website searches. In 2018, the NoVA Sharpshooters partnered with Team LoCo (Loudoun County) Motion from Purcellville, Virginia. Coach Eliot Jardines wanted to expose his athletes to competitive precision shooting, so Coach Eliot and Coach Mark partnered to further advance international pistol shooting in Virginia.

Women's Air Pistol - credit Mark BudgeonWomen’s Air Pistol: Left to right: Cristina Alvarez - Silver; Suman Sanghera - State Champion; Lauren Creese - Bronze

During 2019, nine athletes from NoVA Sharpshooters attended the Junior Olympics with one junior woman winning two silver medals in her age category. Later that year, two juniors were named champions at the USA Shooting National Progressive Position Pistol competition and became members of the USA Shooting Junior Olympic Squad.

By the end of 2019, the NoVA Sharpshooters were hosting the Virginia state air pistol and sport pistol competitions for the Virginia Shooting Sports Association and USA Shooting. This was an extremely successful year for the juniors with 23 selected to attend the 2020 Junior Olympics.

Besides coaching the NoVA Sharpshooters, Coach Mark also mentored new coaches by teaching the NRA Level One Pistol Coach Course to junior trainers and adult coaches. For his outstanding work with youth, ARL-FX presented the 2019 Judge John W. Tobin Chapter Volunteer Appreciation Award to Coach Mark.

All of the athletes in these pictures received invitations to the 2020 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championship. However, all USA Shooting activities were either cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus. As this magazine goes to press, USA Shooting has not set a date for the 2020 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championship.

Pamela Meara is vice president of the League's Arlington-Fairfax Chapter. Mark Budgeon is the NoVA Sharpshooters Junior Pistol coach.