Sports

Gille hopes to soak up experience of junior Olympics

QHS rifle team member Kaleb Gille practices at the Quincy Junior High School riffle range on Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017. Gille was invited to the USA Shooting Junior Olympics in April. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 20, 2017 7:00 am

QUINCY -- Kaleb Gille almost didn't shoot for the Quincy High School rifle team.

He tried out for the team as a freshman, unsure if he'd even make the team. When he did, he wasn't sold on competing.

"When I saw my name on the board, I didn't know if I actually wanted to do it," Gille said. "I'm not good at dedicating myself to things."

He stuck with it, and now as a junior, Gille has earned a chance to compete against the best junior shooters in the United States.

Gille accepted an invitation to the USA Shooting Junior Olympics from April 6-10 at the United States Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He's one of five junior shooters from Illinois to be invited.

"It's the best junior shooters in the country," Gille said. "Every now and then I think and go, ‘Wow, I'm a part of that.' That's pretty awesome."

Gille earned an invitation after shooting a 556 in a qualifying round in the standing air competition. He needed at least a 546 to qualify. In the Junior Olympics, Gille will have two rounds of 60 shots. The top 12 advance to the finals, and the top two are invited to the national development team, which USA Shooting pulls shooters from to create its Olympic team.

Gille spends about six hours a week at the range inside the Quincy Junior High School. He isn't spending any additional time in the range in the coming weeks to prepare for the Junior Olympics.

He wants to keep things the same.

"I want to keep doing what got me there," Gille said. "Our season ended after our match last week. Since then, I've been spending time in here and just focusing on shooting in the standing position."

The standing position that Gille will compete in is arguably the toughest one in the sport. Gille knows how well he scores comes down to how well he can balance himself before he shoots.

To prepare, he does exercises before he even picks up his air rifle. One of those is standing on one leg to find his balance, and he also checks his normal point of aim by aiming his rifle at a target with his eyes closed and then opening them to see where he has the barrel pointed.

"My main problems have been my balance," Gille said. "I'm trying to focus on that and get it under control."

Gille isn't going to Colorado Springs with the anticipation of winning. He knows he's part of exclusive company at the event.

"I'm just going to have fun," he said. "Just the experience of being with the best shooters in the nation and going to the national training center ... I'm just really looking forward to being a part of that."