Hitting the mark
Isaac Dow of Grand Valley Marksmen sweeps Junior National High Power Rifle championship
Whether you’re shooting free throws, seeking the perfect cast or trying to hit a paper target 200 yards away, the highest rewards come only to those willing to put in the effort.
When Isaac Dow of the Grand Valley Marksmen shooting club swept to the 2012 Junior National High Power Rifle championship last month, the honor didn’t come without long hours of standing at the practice range firing line, shooting countless rounds at countless targets.
It also came after months of intense coaching, immense parental support and even a bit of luck.
Dow, 18, also finished the 2012 National High Power Championship Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, by placing sixth overall out of 1,240 competitors in the President’s Rifle Match; taking first in a series of National Trophy Rifle Matches; and winning a spot on the National Civilian Rifle Team, for which he was presented the Elihu Root medal honoring the former U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Peace prize winner.
“Obviously we’ve very proud of him,” Grand Valley head coach Dave Andrews said. “He’s the No. 1 junior in the nation in high-power service rifle, (and) he’s No. 51 out of all of the thousands and thousands of adult shooters in the nation.”
That Dow, who has been shooting competitively for five years under the tutelage of volunteer coach Matt Healey, did remarkably well against some of the top military marksmen in the country speaks not only of Healey’s coaching but also Dow’s self-discipline and his unwavering belief in his own abilities.
“For the most part I don’t pay attention to the other shooters when I’m shooting,” Dow said recently, just prior to heading to yet another round of practice. “I know I’m shooting against the best in the world, but when I come down to it, I’m not shooting against them, I’m shooting for myself.”
That awareness, Healey said, is one of the keys to Dow’s success.
“He’s very disciplined ,and he’s been that way ever since I started coaching him six years ago,” Healey said. “He doesn’t lack for concentration and will spend as much time as he needs to learn something new. For a coach or a teacher, it’s a dream to work with someone like that.”
Andrews said other Grand Valley shooters have done well against national-caliber competition but none quite as well as Dow.
“As a club we’ve had a couple of shooters get high in the standings but never a national champion,” Andrews said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s got a lot of natural talent, but he put in the time.”
By placing in the top 100 of the President’s Rifle Match at Camp Perry, Dow earned the coveted “President’s 100” medal.
Andrews said three other former Grand Valley Marksmen shooters have earned President’s 100 medals: Kyle Alstatt and Matt Sigrist in 2003 and Kyle Fiegel in 2006.
Dow also was presented with a match-grade trophy rifle and other merchandise valued at more than $2,000.
The equipment comes in handy when you shoot 200 to 400 rounds per week, Healey said.
“This summer we started the first week in June and practiced a minimum of 200 rounds per week,” Healey said.
But with the Camp Perry matches approaching, “I said we need to double the rounds, and there were no complaints from Isaac,” Healy said. “Imagine spending four or five hours at the range, standing in 95-degree heat with a leather jacket wrapped around you, and you’re doing that two or three times a week.”
Healey estimated Isaac this summer shot “1,400 rounds in practice.”
Isaac’s success also hinged on unwavering support from his parents, Dave and Karen Dow. Isaac’s three siblings — older brothers Ethan and Elliot and younger brother Adam — also are shooters.
“Like any other thing you do, it takes a kid who wants to stick with it, and Isaac is like that,” said Dave Dow, who credited Healey with being a great coach.
Isaac, who is attending Colorado Mesa University, will compete next year for the U.S. Long Range Development Team in matches against Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and others.
He’s also sure to find time for his nonshooting interests, which include skiing, mountain biking and Ultimate Frisbee.
“He takes shooting seriously, but it’s not the only thing he does,” Dave Isaacs said approvingly.
As for Isaac, shooting gives him the opportunity to be “a bit of a perfectionist.”
“Shooting gives me something to work at,” he said, already eyeing the 2013 National Matches at Camp Perry. “I can always do better, and I can always see how much better I could be doing.
“I do a lot of other sports, but for the most part what I train for is shooting.”