Young marksman hits target at tourney
The bull's-eye is covered in holes, not many of which actually came close to its center. It's been seven years since his first tournament at the age of nine and that old saved target still serves as a reminder of just how far he's come.
Before each tournament Kim Wetzel-Williams still likes to show the target to her son as motivation to keep up the hard work.
"You have to keep practicing," she tells him. "No one wins the gold medal the first time out."
Now 16, Matthew Williams, a junior at Tonganoxie High School, has something new to use as motivation -- an award medal.
Williams recently returned from the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational Tournament in Rapid City, S.D., where his small bore rifle team placed fourth out of 27 entries.
William's section of the competition was to test his team's skills with a .22-caliber rifle. It consisted of three parts that were scored individually and then combined for an overall score.
The team of four first competed in silhouettes, where they had to shoot at metal cutouts of animals that ranged from 40 yards to 100 yards away. They then went on to the Citizens Marksmanship Program where they were tested on slow and rapid fire in three positions.
The final part of the .22 rifle competition was precision, which Williams said was the most challenging for him. The team had to accurately shoot at a target 50 yards away without the use of a scope for help.
Overall, Williams said he was happy with the way the competition ended. He said he placed higher than last year and he gave credit for that fact to the amount he practiced, which he said is the most important part of the sport.
"He's come from a kid who could barley hit the target to one who told himself that he likes winning and it's finally gotten through to his head that to win you have to put the right mental process through and apply himself," Wetzel-Williams said.
It's that winning attitude that Williams said has kept him motivated all these years.
"If I keep practicing I hope to join the Junior Olympics and maybe one day be in the Olympics," he said. "And if not, just be able to pass on an American tradition to my kids."
Williams first got involved in the 4-H shooting program because he wanted to learn how to safely use a gun.
"My mom absolutely hates guns just because she doesn't know how to fire them," Williams said. "But she doesn't mind me because I know how to handle them safely."
Although safety is always on his mind when shooting guns, Williams said he couldn't deny that it's also just a lot of fun.
"It's just a thrill to pull a trigger and wow you're shooting at a bull's-eye," he said.
Williams also said that he liked the teamwork that goes into a shooting competition. While shooting could be an individual sport, he said it was more fun if there were no "star shooters" and everyone worked together rather than just trying to beat each other.
"He competes with himself primarily," Wetzel-Williams said. "It became a contest to improve his own skills."
Although the bullet holes have gotten closer to that bull's-eye center mark, Williams still knows he has a lot of practice ahead of him before he is as good as he knows he can be.