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Garrett Rabel shoots his way into national spotlight at Olympic Training Center

Garrett Rabel shoots his way into national spotlight at Olympic Training Center
La Vernia sophomore Garrett Rabel prepares for competition during his time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

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Bill Morgan
May 31, 2011
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Success is subjective and can come in many forms. For La Vernia High School sophomore Garrett Rabel, success has already been enjoyed at the local and state levels, but after a trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, he is now enjoying the feel of success on a national stage.

Garrett began his competitive shooting career with .22-caliber rifles as a member of the Wilson County 4-H Rifle Team. He was just 8 years old at the time.

After many years of hard work, Rabel competed in the 2010 Texas 4-H Indoor Rifle Match, where he won High Individual honors and anchored his Wilson County team’s first-place finish. But there is a whole world of competitive shooting out there, and Rabel was far from done.

In early 2011, Rabel’s Texas Junior Olympic Rifle scores exceeded the qualification level necessary for an invitation to the National Junior Olympic Rifle Match in Colorado. While this wasn’t Rabel’s first trip to the Centennial State, it was his first time to receive a “first round” invite in both air rifle and three-position smallbore.

In Colorado, Rabel faced the finest young shooters from around the country. He competed against shooters with years more experience than he had, including several who are members of NCAA college shooting programs.

The first competition at the Junior Olympics event was air rifle. Each shooter was given 60 shots in the standing position at targets roughly the size of a quarter placed 33 feet away. Rabel’s first score was 562 out of a possible 600 points, but against that group of shooters, it was far from the top.

After some soul-searching and the ability to better prepare mentally, Rabel experienced a complete reversal on day two. He made a 17-point jump in his score to 579, and showed the crowd in Colorado Springs that he was a player. He eventually finished 36th, but in a field of more than 100 of the country’s best young marksmen, it was a true accomplishment.

Rabel then moved on to the three-position smallbore matches. In this challenge, each shooter takes 40 shots in each of the three positions -- prone, standing, and kneeling. The entire target is just about the size of a softball, and the “10-ring” is no bigger than a pencil eraser. Move the target out to 165 feet, and the challenge is anything but easy.

At the end of the first day, Rabel found himself in seventh place with a score of 1,148 out of a possible 1,200. He went on to shoot a comparable score of 1,146 on the second day, and found himself in a tie with two other competitors for eighth place.

In order to break the tie, a 5-shot “shoot off” was conducted. Like the regular match, the “shoot off” and finals use the electronic scoring system at the Olympic Training Center. For the shoot off, though, the scores for each shot were counted to the tenth of a point. After the last shot was sent downrange, Rabel had just missed the cut.

While Rabel finished in 10th place overall, everything was still to be put into perspective. Although he was 10th in the competition, he was first among shooters in the 17 and under category. As such, Rabel was called to the top podium to receive his gold medal.

The good news kept coming for Rabel, as his medal was awarded by none other than Lones Wigger -- a multiple Olympic medalist and holder of the most international shooting medals in history. Wigger even remarked to Rabel about the youngster’s impressive shot total and performance.

Yes, success is subjective, but most would certainly argue that Rabel’s showing in Colorado was a success. And if the past is any indication, there is more success headed in his direction.

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