Rifle One Of The Oldest Sports In WPIAL History
MOUNT LEBANON (KDKA) — Walking down the third floor hallway at Mount Lebanon High School, you’ll come to a door that looks like any other. But inside, you’ll find something quite unusual.
Gunfire. In a school.
Normally, those two words seen that close together would cause a lockdown, a call to the police and complete and utter panic.
But there’s no cause for alarm here, this has been going on for more than 80 years. This is the sport of Rifle.
“It was the first sport that they had here at Mt. Lebanon,” says Rifle team head coach Dave Willard.
Mt. Lebanon’s Rifle team formed in 1933 and now is one of 16 WPIAL schools that offer it as an official sport. It also has a very unique honor: Rifle is the only WPIAL sport where the guys compete right alongside the girls, and typically, it’s a one sided battle.
“The best shooters are always the girls,” Willard explains, “because they listen. They don’t know a thing about it and they pay attention. They don’t have any bad habits, they just let it go.”
“Girls are better. Don’t you know that?” senior co-captain Kaelyn Chick says with a laugh. “Girls are usually more focused than guys.”
And it turns out; focus is the most important thing in this sport.
“This is unlike any sport you’ve ever seen,” Willard says. “It’s not an adrenaline sport. It’s a mind and body control sport. If you get excited, you will not do well. You can watch the kids get excited. If a kid gets six pins in a row, that’s getting the bulls-eye; they start shooting faster and it goes downhill. You get them in a big match, they’ll start hyperventilating. It’s interesting.”
Shooters have 10 targets to shoot at, at a distance of 50 feet. Most at this level will hit bulls-eye on all 10, which means it all comes down to just how perfect your bull’s-eyes are.
Chick plans to shoot at the University of Kentucky next year.
Her fellow co-captain, Lauren Gibson, says it’s her favorite sport.
“I’ve played a lot of sports,” Gibson says, “and this one stuck.”