The Citadel rifle team sends five cadets to Junior Olympics in Colorado

The Citadel Rifle team recently sent five cadet athletes to compete in the Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Cadets Dalton Bouknight, James Hart, Michael Legens, Meghan Mix and Carson Wood qualified for the Junior Olympics and made the journey to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in April. Most of the cadets participated in both categories — air rifle and small bore rifle — during the competition. They each discussed the challenges they faced during the event, which included adjusting to the altitude and dealing with the mental pressure of the competition.

“I am very proud of the cadets who earned a spot at the Junior Olympics. It’s such a unique opportunity to get to compete at the Olympic Training Center and they did a good job at representing The Citadel well! It was a fun way to end a really good season,” said Claire O’Neel, head coach of The Citadel rifle team.

Hart, who had previously gone to the Junior World Championships in Changwon, South Korea, last July said the experience of competing on this level was, once again, phenomenal.

“It was a great experience. It was hosted at the Olympic Training Center so we’re actually there in the same place where the Olympians are competing, and there’s all these memorabilia on the walls and everything. Every range is a little bit different with how it operates and the rules, and this one is one of the hardest ranges to compete on because there’s very little space for gear, so you have to be very cognizant of where your gear is. So, my past experience definitely helped with that,” said Hart.

Two cadets who went are freshmen and have been officially recognized as members of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets. While both Bouknight and Mix said the fourth-class system pushed them to their limits, being a Citadel cadet gives them an advantage. 

“It was hard at times to go from the cadet world to the shooting world, because when you’re out there in the fourth-class system, your mind is just everywhere. And then you have to go into shooting and relax your mind. I have definitely learned more self-discipline here. Before coming here, I would have a bad practice or a few bad shots, and I would let it get to me. But since being here, I’ve seen a change within myself where I can step back and reevaluate and ask myself what I can change,” said Mix.

While at first glance, rifle looks like an individual sport, the team element should not be overlooked.

“I’ve been competing in the Junior Olympics since I first started in the sport in high school. It was always a fun experience, but with The Citadel, it was something else to be a part of this team. It really made the trip just that much more special; the team aspect is what really made the change for me going into matches,” said Wood.

Another important factor in this sport Is the mental preparation. Each cadet talked about the importance of preparing yourself mentally for matches, and how confidence in yourself and your training will make all the difference.

“I try to always remind myself that, at the end of the day, I’m just happy to have made it here. It’s taken me years to get to where I am in rifle, and I’m happy with where I am and that I got to compete in the Junior Olympics. During it, I just focused on that — the fact that I made it here. Just getting there was already a victory for me. That’s what I tried to remember, and it worked out,” said Legens.

Additionally, each cadet who traveled to Colorado expressed their gratitude toward The Citadel Athletics and their donors for making the trip possible.