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VMI Pistol Club Makes History at Intercollegiate Nationals

three people standing with hands behind their backs

Cadets Alexandria Holt ’24, Parker Hall ’24, and Chris Olsen ’25, all VMI club pistol team members, compete at the Scholastic Action Shooting Program Intercollegiate Pistol Nationals.—Photo courtesy Reese McCormick.

For the first time in history, VMI’s club pistol team attended the 2023 Scholastic Action Shooting Program Intercollegiate Pistol Nationals hosted by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation. Three cadets and their coach, Reese McCormick, departed for Oxford, Alabama, to compete in the competition, which kicked off March 15, 2023.

Seven cadets qualified for the event, but only three—Cadets Parker Hall ’24, Alexandria Holt ’24, and Chris Olsen ’25—could attend the championship. Norman Claytor, assistant coach, was instrumental in assuring their attendance. Holt made history as the first of the three cadets to shoot in the national championship competition.

However, for the team, the results at nationals were not what they had hoped for.

“They did remarkably well,” said McCormick. “We are a very young team: Two 2nd Class cadets and everyone else is either a 4th or 3rd Class cadet.” For McCormick, qualifying for nationals was an accomplishment in itself. “Our kids had a rookie coach,” he said. “All of us were rookies for the first time.”

Though the scores were not perfect, the event was a new experience. “It was a great event for us,” said McCormick. “We didn’t shoot as well as we wanted to, but at the same time, it was something we did for the first time ever.”

McCormick explained that the sport of pistol was relatively new to him. After listening to advice from Lt. Col. William Bither, VMI rifle head coach, McCormick knew coaching pistol was a position he could take on. In his first year as coach, he leaned on the 1st Class cadets to lead the team. “Coach Bither told me that most of the cadets would be able to lead our team. After that, he encouraged me to keep reading and keep learning from the cadets.”

One of McCormick’s favorite aspects of the sport of pistol is its applicability to everyday life. “It’s a lifetime sport,” he said. “We may be coaching the sport, but we are really trying to teach these kids life skills at the same time.”

During a match, one bad shot can mean the competition is over for a single competitor. McCormick shared that this lesson is one of the most important things that he teaches as a coach.

“If you throw that one shot, are you going to let that one shot determine the rest of the match for you?” he said. “That is a life skill.”

  • Olivia Polumbo VMI Communications & Marketing