By ANDY GOODELL
The Oskaloosa Herald
He’s a real straight shooter.
Ryan Smithart, 20, of Oskaloosa, recently earned the designation of National Champion International Skeet Men’s Division at the USA Shooting 2013 ACUI National Clay Target Championship held this past week in San Antonio, Texas.
“I wasn’t even sure I had won until I turned around and heard my fan section cheering,” said Smithart. “That was pretty cool.”
The collegiate-level competition included seven different events, said Smithart.
With this tournament, Smithart also made it onto the USA Shooting National Junior Team, he said, which has been a goal of his for quite some time.
Although he’s been familiar with firearms for most of his life, Smithart said things really got going back when he was in the eighth grade. This was when the Oskaloosa Shooting Team was first getting going, he explained.
“It was always something that I enjoyed doing,” said Smithart, adding that the fact that he’s gotten better at the sport has been encouraging.
Smithart is currently a student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., and is on a competitive shooting scholarship there, said Smithart’s father, Larry Gay.
“They just finished winning their tenth national collegiate championship in a row,” said Gay.
This is a real record, said Smithart.
“In fact, we’re going to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for that,” Smithart said.
Given his level of experience, the fact that Smithart has come this far in the sport is something worth recognizing, noted Gay, who also credited Smithart’s family for encouraging him along the way. The local community has also helped Smithart, noted Gay.
For those who may not know much about the sport of competitive shooting, it is gaining in popularity. Smithart said he’s seen growth in the sport since he began with it.
“I know when we started out when I was in eighth grade there was I think eight kids on the team and we’ve grown to upwards around 60 now,” said Smithart. “As far as the high school goes in the community, it’s grown. I believe its grown over the country quite largely, too.”
Gay, who coaches the Oskaloosa Shooting Team, agreed that the sport is on the rise.
Smithart agreed that being on a shooting team is a lot like being on any other sports team in that you show appreciation when your teammates do well.
Gay and Smithart said that staying away from caffeine, eating properly and getting enough sleep are all key factors in competitive shooting.
“It’s extremely important because of the blood flow to the eyes,” Gay explained. “For instance, let’s say you eat a big meal just right before you shoot. It slows your movement down.
The blood from your head starts to help digest food in your stomach, which effects your eyes.”
Smithart said it’s his goal to continue to improve with every tournament he participates in from here on out.
Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.