Daniel Lauron believes one of his activities at Grove City Christian School helped give him the discipline and skills he needs to serve his country.
The senior, who enlisted in the National Guard last summer, recently completed his third year of competition on the school's rifle team.
Just like the National Guard, the rifle team requires marksmanship and the ability to use the weapons with confidence while focusing on safety. The team also gives students the opportunity to test themselves while being a part of the school's athletics culture.
"The idea of shooting competitively has always been something that I had thought of, but I was always a musical person and I still am," said Lauron, who also plays trombone in the school band. "I knew all the coaches. When the opportunity arose, I thought that's something I can take up."
The rifle team, one of a handful in central Ohio, recently completed its third season with 11 athletes competing at the high school level and nine at the middle school level. Among the highlights this season, the Eagles competed in four major matches at Camp Perry in Port Clinton and defeated Central Crossing, Newark and Grove City.
The Eagles captured the first Hoover Cup by defeating the Greyhounds.
"The rifle team provides the school options," said coach Curt Mayhew, who helped form the program. "There are students that attend here who don't fit into normal sports. For whatever reason, they're not runners, they're not ballplayers, but they should have an option to participate in a collegiate-level sport. There's a United States shooting team, it's an Olympic sport, so that got us started."
Mayhew is assisted by James Lee and Shawn Flowers, who first became interested in forming the program since they had sons attending the school. Lee said he and Mayhew are certified chief range safety officers, and all three coaches completed a required state certification program.
Last year, Matthew Tyler became the first graduating senior on the rifle team. The school's valedictorian in 2017, he earned a scholarship through the Civilian Marksmanship Program to attend Capital University.
"When I first heard of the rifle team starting, I thought it was a great opportunity," Tyler said. "For one, to get my athletic credits for Grove City Christian, but I also thought since I was always interested in guns it was a great thing to take part in."
Tyler returned to the school this season to help run matches and support his former teammates.
Matches are held in a makeshift shooting range in the school's gymnasium. Using air rifles with pellets as ammunition, teams mainly compete at three positions for 10 shots and three positions for 20 shots, all at 33 feet.
The Grove City Christian team has received several grants to help fund the program, according to Mayhew. The season starts in September and ends in March.
"We're very pleased with the number of kids who are interested and the caliber of the kid that shows up to become part of the rifle team," Mayhew said. "Because the sport is best participated in by kids that are patient and calm and have their act together, we have some of the best kids at the school."
Grove City runs its program through its Navy Junior ROTC program, while Grove City Christian is not associated with the JROTC.
Dustin Martin recently completed his second season as Grove City's coach and also is a senior naval science instructor at the school.
"The marksmanship program is part of our curriculum for the Navy JROTC," Martin said. "It's challenging. Rifle is a precision sport ... and it's very enjoyable coaching and seeing how well the cadets improve week by week.
"You're looking for consistency and you're looking for that consistency to improve over time."
There were 14 athletes on this season's Grove City team, including senior Emily Bunsey, who finished 279th of 2,917 competitors in the Navy JROTC National Postal Competition, a series of events held throughout the season. The team finished in the top 16 percent.
"We're very proud of that," Martin said.
The Central Crossing, Franklin Heights and Newark rifle teams also are affiliated with their JROTC programs.
With limited programs in the area, teams travel for competitions. Events are held around Ohio, including at Camp Perry, a National Guard training facility.
Mayhew and Martin both hope the sport grows in popularity in central Ohio, and Martin said area coaches have started an informal league with hopes of someday adding teams.
"Coach Lee, coach Mayhew and coach Flowers are doing a great job with helping (the Grove City Christian) shooters see their potential," Tyler said.
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City Christian baseball, softball and track & field teams:
April 19 -- At Madison Plains
April 21 -- At Mansfield Christian (DH)
*April 23 -- Home vs. Fairfield Christian. The Eagles defeated the Knights 19-2 in five innings April 6.
*April 20 -- At Wellington in makeup from April 3
April 21 -- Home vs. Delaware Christian and Eastmoor Academy
*April 23 -- Home vs. Fairfield Christian. The Eagles lost to the Knights 15-0 in five innings April 6.
*April 24 -- At Berne Union. The Eagles lost to the Rockets 20-1 in five innings April 9.
TRACK & FIELD
April 20 -- Logan Elm Invitational
April 24 -- At Grove City with Ready