PORT CLINTON -- Sarah Scherer's ticket to London was printed out here along the shore of Lake Erie Sunday afternoon. The 21-year-old junior from Texas Christian University qualified for the U.S. Olympic team by battling her way through two days of intense competition, all while waging an internal fight with a nasty head cold.
Scherer was one of just six shooters who emerged from a field of about 180 to land a position on the U.S. team for the London Olympics, which take place in July and August.
USA Shooting's final round of the U.S. Olympic Trials for Airgun competition took place at the CMP Marksmanship Center at Camp Perry over the weekend -- the first time the Olympic qualifier has been held at the site. The preliminary round of qualifying for this year's Olympics took place in Alabama in December.
After making the team in the women's 10-meter air rifle, Scherer expressed relief that she had been able to tough it out, despite the impact her health issues had on her physically. She credited her faith for helping her remain in the competition, which was the final opportunity to make the U.S. team in her specialty.
"The only thing that I had left in my shooting that was still me was my focus and concentration. I couldn't hear or see as well as normal, and my heart rate was all over the place. My body was shaky, and I'm just so thankful that I made it through," said Scherer. "Honestly, thank you, Lord. Without him I could not have made it through this match."
Jamie Gray, a 2008 Olympian, took the other position on the team in women's air rifle. Gray narrowly missed earning a medal in the Beijing Games by finishing fourth in the 10-meter event.
She has also qualified for the London Games in the 50-meter rifle/three-position event. Gray trains at Fort Benning, Ga., the home base of her husband, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) Staff Sgt. Hank Gray.
In the men's 10-meter air rifle competition, two-time Olympic medalist Matt Emmons of Browns Mills, N.J., returns to the U.S. team, joined by 2011 Pan American Games silver medalist Jonathan Hall of Carrollton, Ga. Emmons has made the team in two events, since he previously qualified in the 50-meter rifle/three position.
Emmons said qualifying for the team was just a first step and that he had a lot of work to do before he considers himself ready for the shooting events at the 2012 Olympics, which will take place at the Royal Artillery Barracks in London at the end of July.
"I'm happy to earn another nomination to the team," Emmons said. "At the same time, I know the scores that I shot throughout the trials are not going to be competitive at the Games, and I know what I need to do to get there."
Hall, a senior at Columbus State University in Georgia, had finished third in the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, one position away from making the team. A strong final sequence in the competition enabled him to move into the top two at Camp Perry and join the 2012 team.
"It's a relief and an exciting moment," Hall said. "I've been working toward this my whole life -- it has been my main goal. This is just the next step on the staircase, and I'm not on the floor that I want to be on in London."
In the 10-meter air pistol competition, two Olympic veterans return to the U.S. team. Three-time Olympian Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski of Alabama and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Jason Turner of Colorado qualified to shoot in London.
Steve Cooper of the Civilian Marksmanship Program at Camp Perry said the Olympic Trials, as well as other national matches held at the site each year, provide the Port Clinton area with a significant economic boost.
"It's definitely a feather in our cap to hold an Olympic qualifying event," he said. "Like the other matches that take place here, they all draw hundreds of folks and their families to the community, and that has to help out the local economy, especially in the offseason around the lake."
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a U.S. government-chartered entity that promotes firearms safety training, with special emphasis on youth.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.