By Serena Juchnowski, CMP Feature Writer
Hard work and tenacity pay off.
Hailing from Denver, N.C., Katie Ezell, 18, has been one to watch. At the age of 10, Katie’s parents introduced her to marksmanship, wanting their daughter to have hands-on instruction in firearm safety. Thus began a love affair that has only evolved since then.
“The first time I ever went shooting, I knew this was something that I would want to continue to do,” Katie said.
Since she was so young and unable to join the teenage pistol team at her club, Katie applied to the women’s team, which had no specific age restrictions, and proceeded to compete with those far older and more experienced. Katie accredits much of her competitive drive and how she handles match pressure to pursuing the competition venture at such a young age.
After pistol came skeet, in which Katie traveled to national and international competitions. Thinking about the future, Katie soon realized that a shooting scholarship would allow her to continue in the shooting sports while funding her education. Precision rifle appeared to be the best avenue for this, leading Ezell to move into rimfire sporter for four months before making the jump into precision air rifle.
Ezell cites her greatest accomplishment as “getting accepted to be on The Ohio State [University’s] rifle team after shooting for a year and a half.” While Ezell had been shooting for eight years, she had only been training and competing in precision rifle for 18 months when she was accepted onto the team, where she made her dream a reality.
After signing on, Katie’s first competition was the Junior Olympics, which added some extra pressure to the already prestigious event. This was not the only special part of the occasion. Katie’s father, a deployed military member, was in town, and this was the first time he would watch her compete in person, since his deployment makes attending matches difficult.
Katie notes that after she set the nervousness aside, she found herself excited and shot a personal best in smallbore. She had hoped to shoot better with her air rifle, but she knows that being part of a college team will help her to improve her skills.
Katie is nearing the end of her first semester at Ohio State and has surpassed her previous bests in smallbore and air rifle. Her coach has changed some of Katie’s positions, and she is improving.
This fall has been quite the change for Katie, who previously had to drive three hours to get to the range, with coaching only available once or twice a month. Thrilled to have people to coach her regularly and to practice with, she is appreciative of the support and challenges they offer.
“Marksmanship has taught me a lot about self-control. If the shot does not look right, then I reject it and try again. I have learned that failure is okay, that it is actually encouraged,” she said.
Katie recognizes that failure can inspire one to do better and to learn. She advises competitors “to not be afraid to fail.” Katie started into precision shooting at a much later age than most, especially those who end up with a college shooting career. Though it took time, she learned to appreciate the experience and to not bury herself in expectations.
“I use[d] to be afraid at failing at things that really mattered to me, but now the only thing I’m scared of is only succeeding at things that do not matter to me,” she said.