After growing up in Lebanon, Pa., Jamie Beyerle left her small hometown to pursue her passion out of state and out of the country - rifle shooting. The 26-year-old world-class athlete has been earning medals in rifle competitions since she was a teenager, with plans of continuing her winning streak in order to secure a spot in the 2012 Olympics.
Beyerle started rifle shooting at the young age of six after watching her older brother's involvement in BB gun competitions. The two siblings practiced shooting techniques together in the basement of their home, a training that led Beyerle to enter BB competitions of her own and even win The American Legion's 2002 Junior Rifle Precision National Championship. After taking home the title, Beyerle achieved an undergraduate degree from the University of Alaska (Fairbanks) and a spot on its nationally-renowned rifle team. Since graduating, Beyerle has become an athlete for USA Shooting and a 2008 Olympian.
Currently, Beyerle is training in Fort Benning, Ga., for future competitions in two events - air rifle and three-position rifle. And as The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports Program prepares for its 20th annual event in Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 5-8, the Legion spoke with Beyerle about her success in the sport.
Q: What motivated you to pursue this sport in high school, college and beyond?
A: I was a good BB gun shooter, but one can only compete in BB gun through the age of 15. When I was too old to shoot a BB gun I started shooting rifle with the Palmyra Sportsmen's Junior Program. When I started with the rifle program, I decided shooting was something I wanted to put a lot of time into. I was good at it and shooting was so much different than all the other sports I played since it is more of an individual sport. I also played basketball and softball until 10th grade and soccer through high school. At the end of my junior year in high school, I had to make an important decision - soccer or shooting. I decided to pursue shooting through college and that is why I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks. After I finished my four years of eligibility in NCAA shooting, I still had the passion for shooting and wanted to keep competing after college. The reason I keep shooting is because I love the sport and enjoy working at something I have so much passion for. Shooting is like any other sport, it is a game and I enjoy playing it and trying to improve my skills.
Q: You have a great amount of medals behind your name. How does all the success make you feel?
A: I work very hard at shooting and winning medals is just the reward for the time I put into this sport. It feels great to be on the podium, especially when you get to see the American Flag raised and hear the national anthem played.
Q: What was it like scoring a spot in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and placing first in women's three-position rifle?
A: Of course scoring a spot on the 2008 Olympic Team was an amazing feeling; it was the first step to achieving the ultimate goal of an Olympic medal. I had a horrific 2004 Olympic trials, and I was determined not to repeat that performance in 2008, and I didn't. I went into the tryout determined to shoot world-class scores, and that is what I did.
Q: In terms of training, what does a "day in the life of Jamie" look like?
A: This really does depend on what training period I am in, but in a heavy training period I will start shooting at about 0800. I will shoot until 1200 or 1300 and then grab some lunch. After lunch, about 1400, I will shoot some more, normally the opposite gun I shot in the morning (.22 or .177), until about 1600. Then it is physical training time. I will normally do some kind of cardio and then maybe some thera-band exercises for about an hour to an hour and a half. Then I head home for dinner and rest and then do it all over again the next day. I do have a sports psychologist and nutritionist that I work with to hone mental and nutritional skills. I do some mindfulness meditation and/or visualization daily as well. Shooting is a full-time job for me. If I am in a period of competition, I cut back quite a bit on my actual range training. I will not shoot in the afternoons during a period of competition and many times I will only shoot for three hours in the mornings. If I am on a low shooting time, for instance right after a competition, I will extend my physical training time and very little to no shooting.
Q: What did you enjoy most about The American Legion Junior Shooting Sports competition when you competed and won in 2002?
A: The things I enjoyed the most about The American Legion competition was the scholarship and being able to go to North Carolina and meet the other American Legion winners from other competitions.
Q: What encouraging words do you have for the 2010 American Legion Shooting Sports competitors?
A: One thing I always tell young people when they are involved in the shooting sports, and any sport in that matter, is to enjoy what they are doing. Remember that one reason you are participating in this sport is because you enjoy the sport and have a passion for it. It is very difficult to be great at something that you do not enjoy doing.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: I will continue shooting at least through 2012 and hopefully bring home some hardware from London. After I am finished shooting internationally, whenever that time comes, I would like to either be a high school math teacher or work in the sports psychology field.
Q: What advice do you have for high school students looking to pursue shooting in college?
A: I personally found it a little overwhelming trying to choose what university was right for me. I wanted to pursue an education in some kind of sports field, but I also wanted go to a team that I would be pushed by, and these two things did not match. I had my heart set on the team in Alaska, but the University of Alaska did not offer any major in sports. I knew I wanted to shoot after college, so I decided the team meant the most and I could find something to major in that I enjoyed. This is not the right decision for everyone. I really believe you need to decide what is best for you. I know there is pressure coming from all directions on what others think you should do, but you are a young adult and need to make that decision. This is not to say that others cannot help you in the process, but in the end you are the one that needs to live with the decisions you make, so take the time to realize what you really want. That is what I did, and I do not regret one thing.