By Ashley Dugan, CMP Staff Writer
Junior air rifle athlete Makenzie Larson, 15, of Wellington, Colo., strives for perfection – and has now almost achieved it on more than one occasion.
During the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) 2023 National Three-Position Air Rifle Championship series, she remained unwavering in her performances and made a name for herself through her near flawless performances on the firing line.
“Within the last year, everything has come together and started clicking with my shooting,” she said.
The National Three-Position Air Rifle Championship is a junior competition for sporter and precision junior marksmen involved in 4-H, Scouts, American Legion, club or JROTC air rifle programs. Athletes compete in two days of qualifying scores in prone, standing and kneeling positions, followed by a final. The annual event features Postal, Regional and National rounds.
Back in April’s Regional Championship, Makenzie went in with the simple goal of doing her best and qualifying for Nationals. To her surprise, she went on to set not one, not two, but three precision air rifle national records with her incredible score of 599-57X on the first day of competition – just one point away from an unreached perfect 600. The score stands as the 3×20 Open/Overall, 3×20 American Legion and 3×20 Under 17 individual precision records.
“I did go into my match on the first day confident in my abilities to shoot well, but was not thinking about breaking records,” she admitted of Regionals. “When I found out that I had set the record, I was surprised and proud of myself and grateful for the opportunity given to me.”
Unsurprisingly, Makenzie finished the match as the top scoring athlete out of over 180 precision competitors. She followed up her outstanding Regional performance by moving on to the two-day National event at the Gary Anderson CMP Competition Center in Ohio in July, where she almost met perfection again.
“I had high expectations and goals for myself coming into the National match considering I had shot a 599-57x at Regionals a couple months prior,” she explained.
The first day of Nationals was the Junior Olympic competition. Makenzie started strong by coming close to that national record score – dropping only one point in standing to accumulate a score of 599-55X in the qualifying round. The score had her leading the group going into the eight-person final where she was ultimately bested by just 0.7 points by Jack Ogoreuc of the Oil City Junior Rifle Team from Pennsylvania.
Though she didn’t reach the overall win in the match, her talents still led her to a spot on the USA Shooting National Futures Team for junior athletes.
“I had no idea that making the Junior National Team was even an option before coming and competing at the 3PAR national match,” she admitted. “Earning the spot means a lot to me. This opportunity that has been given to me can open so many new doors for me in my future, and I am very grateful for that.”
Day 2 of Nationals brought the CMP Championship and showed more of the same excellence from Makenzie as she recorded a score of 598-55X – again giving her the lead heading into an elimination final.
The pressure of finals can be a lot for any athlete, especially with a national-level win hanging on the line, but Makenzie has trained herself to keep calm through remembering her fundamentals.
“I try to follow my process as much as I can when I am competing,” she said. “It makes me focus on something other than my nerves, and my process helps me stay consistent – doing the exact same thing each time for every shot.”
With her process in mind, Makenzie was able to nab the overall win in the CMP National Match by earning a place as the last standing athlete.
“Taking that last shot during the final, I was excited and was shaky, but it felt amazing to perform to the best of my abilities at a national competition against the high level of talent that was there,” she said.
Reaching such an elite competitive prominence as Makenzie has done takes time. She’s been competing in air rifle for nearly five years, beginning by shooting with her dad before becoming involved with 4-H. Soon after, she joined a National Rifle Association program with her local American Legion Post 109 and also connected with Team Winning Solutions – a collection of talented mentors set on training marksmanship athletes around the nation.
“I believe my success is a result of me joining Team Winning Solutions,” she said. “Being in a positive environment when I am training and shooting has definitely helped me develop my mental game, which has gotten me to where I am now.”
To maintain her skills, Makenzie trains at her house or at the American Legion Post two to three times a week using her Feinwerkbau 800 X rifle and even gets the chance to use the Olympic Training Center on occasion. Though she appreciates marksmanship itself, it’s the emphasis on concentration that keeps her interested in the sport.
“I enjoy that it keeps me focused on something all the time when I am actively shooting,” she said. “I like the process of shooting competitively because of the focus that is required to be competitive for an entire match.”
For the future, Makenzie plans to keep competing and aims to get more junior athletes involved.
“It’s something that I have a strong love for,” she acknowledged.
And, of course, Makenzie will stay in pursuit of that one bold ambition.
“I would like to be the first person to shoot a 600 at a CMP match,” she said, confidently.
With such consistent scores and noticeable motivation, the possibility of perfection is within her sights.
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.