When Elizabeth Ewert was ten years old, she joined her local American Legion Air Rifle Team. It wasn’t such a far stretch for the little girl given that her Father, Ross, had shot air rifle and smallbore when he was a boy.
In fact, Ross was the one who introduced Elizabeth to shooting sports. Most Fathers and Daughters end up having their thing, a special circumstance or event to bring them together, that deepens the Father/Daughter bond.
However, what started out as a shared hobby for the two, grew into something so much more for young Elizabeth.
“My Dad taught me all the safety rules and how to shoot,” she explained. “But once I started getting deeper into the sport I needed more expertise, so Dad was the one who brought me to a different coach to help me learn even more.”
Things got serious pretty fast and a 13 year old Elizabeth started making decisions that would ultimately shape her future.
“There are two classes in air rifle and smallbore. Sporter and Precision. I switched to the Precision class when I was 13. That’s the first year I qualified for the Junior Olympics. The following year, I won my age category. That win helped me realize I wanted to concentrate on shooting. I focused less on volleyball and prioritized competitive shooting because I knew I wanted to compete at a higher level.”
Elizabeth has been competing at the Junior Olympics for six consecutive years now. Only the top junior shooters are invited to attend each year, so the fact that she’s been able to secure an invite year after year, is testament to her devotion to the sport of shooting.
What’s more, the Junior Olympics have helped pave her path to the future. “I’d hear about scholarships when I’d go to these big national matches. There are always a lot of collegiate athletes and Olympians there. So when I started asking around about shooting competitively in college, I found out shooting was an NCAA recognized sport and that sometimes scholarships were available.”
In addition to her regular studies and daily practice, Elizabeth searched for NCAA rifle schools and began contacting each university individually, asking for more information about their programs so she could fine tune her list of potential colleges. In the end, she settled on the University of Nebraska with a four year, partial rifle scholarship.
And while life has been busy, things are about to get a whole lot more so. “I want to major in chemical engineering, but I’m focusing on pre-med so I can go to medical school. I’ll be competing a lot too, almost every weekend during the season. Competition starts in October and will end with Championships in the spring each year. It’s going to be a real change for me. I’m used to having the same coach for years now but, come next Fall I’ll have a new perspective with different trainers… maybe my scores will improve. If I’m competing against the top people in the country… well, there’s so much more to think about – like the Olympics.”
“Of course it’s my dream to go to the Olympics but, I’m just happy to be shooting.” Elizabeth can’t keep the smile out of her voice. “I know a lot of people want the Olympics and I know how much work it takes. At this point, I don’t know if I’m going to spend my life focusing on becoming an Olympian. So for now, I’m going to concentrate on my studies instead. If I make it to the World Cup and I can see a genuine possibility of walking that Olympic road, then my focus will change.”
To help athletes like Elizabeth get on that Olympic road, is the tremendous resource that is USA Shooting. The governing body of U.S. international shooting offers step programs and guidance for young people who would aspire to standing on a podium on the world stage.
But that’s still some time off for Elizabeth. And she knows, there are lots of other young people out there, just like her, who want to go to college and compete or like knowing that the Olympics could be a possibility. So when asked what she would tell other young people who are just starting out, how to succeed, her answer isn’t so much about practicing day in and day out, it’s about being yourself and getting to know the people you’re going to be competing with.
“Just get your name out there! On the range, the coaches notice how you interact with people. They aren’t just looking for good scores. They want to see how you relate with your teammates and people on the line. Don’t just keep to yourself, because these are the people you’re going to be spending a lot of time with. Coaches want to see how you work together.”