Homestead senior Mark Dely played football and rugby, plenty of tough, physical sports.
He still believes rifle team is a serious athletic challenge. You try hitting the center of the target, which is about the size of a period at the end of this sentence. And doing that just about every time.
“This one is definitely one of the most challenging” sports, Dely said at The X Count indoor shooting range Wednesday, as he signed with the Naval Academy rifle team and Leo senior Zach Hegbli signed with the Coast Guard Academy team. “In a lot of other sports, it's a lot more physical, whereas this one, when you get to the higher levels, it's 90% mental and maybe 10% physical.”
Dely and Hegbli have shot at the The X Count throughout high school. Because of the small number of high school club teams competing in rifle, Dely technically shot for the Carroll club team, and Hegbli competed for Bishop Dwenger.
“We all train together. We go to the college matches together,” Dely said. “It's one team, but if we're shooting at state or at high school matches, we're split up.”
Only 29 colleges field NCAA-sanctioned rifle teams, including six service academies or military schools.
Hegbli said he first tried the sport after seeing signs posted around town and signing up for a summer camp. Kids who enjoy the camp can then try out for the team, typically joining their freshman year.
“You start out shooting sporter, which you don't get a suit, you just get a gun, and you shoot three positions,” Dely explained. “Then you move up to precision, and that's how you get the cool little suit.”
At the signing, Hegbli said he first met the Coast Guard Academy coach, Richard Hawkins, at an event at The X Count during his first year with the club. Although Coast Guard is a service academy, the admissions process is similar to a typical university and does not require an appointment from a U.S. representative or senator, as is required for Air Force, Army and Navy.
Dely hopes to study nuclear engineering, perhaps serving on a submarine or an aircraft carrier.
Hegbli is currently getting certified for scuba diving and has various ideas for what he might do in the Coast Guard, including flying helicopters. But he hopes to study marine environmental science while in school.