OUTDOORS: Right on target

Vesta native Jared Zollner is making his mark on the national air-rifle stage

Photo courtesy of Jerry Ludwig Vesta’s Jared Zollner poses for a photo after a recent air-rifle competition. Zollner has been competing in national air-rifle tournaments across the Midwest and earned top marks, including a national record.

VESTA – To say that Vesta’s Jared Zollner had a busy June would be an understatement. The Wabasso grad has been all over the Midwest area and back throughout the last few weeks, participating in multiple air rifle competitions.

During his travels, Zollner enjoyed meeting competitors from different areas of the country and took pride in representing Minnesota.

“It was neat, there are people from all different kinds of places with different accents and it’s just neat to represent your home state,” said Zollner.

Zollner’s competition marathon began on June 13 when he left home for Bloomington, Illinois to compete in the National Rifle Association Air Rifle National competition. After a day of practice shooting the next day, Zollner began the competition shooting in the 3-P portion of the tournament, which is broken down into three shooting positions – standing, kneeling, and prone. Zollner went on to finish third overall during this stage of the competition.

The next day Zollner was back practicing for the next event, the 60-shot standard, which was to take place the following day. When it was all said and done, Zollner brought home more hardware, this time placing second overall. Not to be outdone, Zollner also set a new NRA Junior Sporter Class record in the 40-shot standing.

Zollner likens the experience of competing in these events to a championship game.

“It’s like when you go out on the football field in the championship game and your heart’s pumping, it’s kind of like that,” Zollner said.

In all, the NRA Air Rifle National competition lasted a total of a week. A long process, but it was only the first leg of the competition circuit that Zollner was to embark on.

On June 20, Zollner was back on the road headed to Camp Perry, Ohio to compete in the Junior Olympics as well as the Civilian Marksmanship Program 3-position competitions that began on June 22. In the Junior Olympics event, Zollner finished 90th out of 243 competitors. He would improve the following day during the CMP 3-position competition, as he placed 17th out of 243 to close out the second leg of the journey.

The final stop for Zollner was in Grand Island, Nebraska to participate in the 4-H National competition in which he took part in three separate events. First was the 3-position competition on the 26th, followed by the 40-shot standard and finally the silhouette.

Zollner went on to place fifth overall through the week of competition at the 4-H National competition, but it was the people he got to share the experiences with that made it his favorite event of them all.

“My favorite (event) was probably the 4-H nationals, just because I was with some really fun coaches,” said Zollner. “They just made it a fun time.”

Finally, after thousands of miles of travel and two and a half weeks of competition, the marathon came to an end on June 29. Zollner’s sponsors, the Redwood County VFW

Post 2553, Redwood Falls American Legion Post 38, Redwood County Pheasants Forever, Redwood Falls Sportsmen Club and the Redwood County 4-H Federation all played a hand in making the journey possible. Zollner, along with his teammate George Turbes, presented to the Legion back in April following the regional competitions in order to thank them for all of their support and let them know of the events that were to come.

“We went and did a presentation back at the American Legion, and they were just really excited because they haven’t done anything like this before,” Zollner said. “The VFW usually donates money to baseball (teams) but they said it’s just another neat experience, because usually nobody ever comes back and presents to them.”

With the air-rifle competitions seemingly all but done for the year, Zollner will now begin to prepare for the fall semester at Southwest Minnesota State University where he will be studying chemistry. However, if he can find another competition by the end of the summer, Zollner has one more achievement left to accomplish on his list, the Junior Distinguished Badge. This badge is an honor to receive in the sport and is earned after compiling 30 EIC (Excellence-in-competition) points by ranking highly in state and national competitions. Zollner is well within range to accomplish this feat.

“They’re not very easy to get, and I’m at 29 (points) so I need one more point to get the Distinguished Badge,” said Zollner. “I’d have to go to another match and place in the top percentage of the (competitors) to get another point.”

A Junior Distinguished Badge would be a feather in the cap for a young man who has already established himself as one of the nation’s best in the sport.

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