By Larry Moore
Your senior year of college is supposed to be special. The previous years at school should make everything easier. Unless you take up a new challenge, such as starting the collegiate shooting sports competition, suddenly you are a freshman again. That is what Joe Ivancic, who is a Delaware, Ohio native and about to graduate from Cedarville University, did.
It was also Cedarville’s first year in the collegiate shooting sports. It is extremely rare, almost unheard of, for a first year shooter to qualify for the nationals. Ivancic explains his shooting background, “I learned to shoot while in the Boy Scouts. We learned trapshooting and I started shooting some rifle. When I turned 21, I started shooting pistol also.” He also explained the he never competed in organized sports throughout high school and college.
Someone failed to mention the possibility of accomplishing the near impossible as Ivancic qualified for the 2014 NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships held at Ft. Benning, Ga.
“I qualified as an individual. The program takes the top thirty individuals in the nation. I placed 29th with a score of 515 out of 600. It was a blessing to qualify. I was close to in shock when I received a text from coach. I just sat at my desk staring. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. My roommate even asked if I was okay. I was extremely blessed to be there. I think it was an act of God”, said Ivancic.
Another part of the surprise is that he is shooting pretty much a stock pistol. He notes, “I’m shooting a Ruger MKIII target pistol with only some grip and trigger group upgrades. It’s a very nice gun but most collegiate competitors are shooting higher grade pistols that are much more expensive and specially designed for competitive target shooting.”
Ivancic competed in matches and sectionals to qualify. He met a number of other shooters at various events including The Ohio State University(OSU) and the University of Akron (UA). He soon learned that shooters, unlike many competitive sports, form a close bond.
Ivancic comments, “I was amazed at the camaraderie at the national event. The teams had great relationships and are friends. The shooting sports is very different from football or soccer. You compete on a team but also as an individual. However the shooters know each other, are friends and encourage each other. I’ve experienced that throughout the year especially at the OSU and Akron events. It was, overall, such a great experience all year.”
The atmosphere at Ft Benning could be overwhelming. There were over 200 student athletes and their coaches there for the pistol competition. There are five different pistol events each with specific courses of fire for scores.
There were twenty-one shooters from Ohio who qualified with eleven from OSU, nine from UA and one from Cedarville. The competition consists of the very best of collegiate pistol shooters in the nation. Many are from the military academies and military schools and all, except Cedarville, have long established programs and a history of excellence in the shooting sports. Ivancic jokes, “I realized how big Ft. Benning really is. We got lost on base a couple of times!”
The local matches were shot on a 50-foot indoor range but the nationals are fired on 25-meter outdoor range shooting from a covered shed. Ivancic adds, “The thing that threw me off the most was the difference between the firing commands. At the local level verbal commands are combined with an audible beep when on the firing line.
However at Ft. Benning it was an verbal command combined with red and green lights at the target. The focus and mindset had to change from hearing to sight recognition. That was the biggest mental adjustment. As a shooter you are used to a specific mental routine. This changed my entire routine.”
The key to success is often practice, practice and more practice. Ivancic was limited to shooting only one day per week. The remainder of his training was done using a simulation technique known as dry firing since no live ammunition is fired. He admitted that the practice sessions at Ft. Benning were a cause for concern. Fortunately he was able to regroup and find his focus again prior to the actual competition. Ivancic’s parents made the trip to watch their son.
He adds, “Both my parents were at Ft. Benning. They watched a couple of my practice sessions and when I competed. They were very proud of me. They were happy and supportive.”
Ivancic believes his overall experience at Cedarville really helped him to reach this level. He says, “Cedarville University does very well integrating faith into life experiences. There is a high sense of direction here. It helps you to focus on who you are and where does God want me to be as a person. Cedarville stresses excellence in effort and to glorify God through what you do and the gifts you have received. Through this, I am able to hyper-focus when shooting.”
Ivancic will continue to live in Cedarville and begin his career in software development in Kettering. He also plans to pursue competitive shooting possibly in the bull’s-eye shooting or also steel plate competition.
The entire Cedarville community can be proud that we were represented so well by this fine young man. I am proud to have met him and very pleased that he did a fine job representing all of us who are shooters!