To say Kathleen Auton has come a long way would be an understatement.
Auton was 12 years old and agreed to enter a shooting competition under pressure from her firearm-sports loving grandfather.
Up until that day, she hadn’t shown much desire for the sport, which had always been a big hobby in her family.
“Essentially I just went to appease him,” Auton said.
She did not do so well on the range, hitting probably only half her intended targets, but Auton had fun. And then her competitive nature kicked in.
“Once I realized how bad I was, I was driven to get better at it,” she said.
Auton departs for Halifax on Thursday (Feb. 10) as part of Team B.C.’s Canada Winter Games shooting contingent.
The 19-year-old will compete in the women’s pistol category, earning one of the two spots on the squad. Her younger sister Jessica, 14, is an alternate on the team.
And another fellow shooter, Colton Muench, will shoot in the men’s category.
All three are members of the Langley Rod and Gun Club.
Going to the Games is a huge accomplishment and hopefully a springboard to greater things.
“I am blissfully ecstatic just to know that all the hard work that I have put in has paid off,” Auton said. “I am getting the chance to go to a big multi-sport event; it is an incredible feeling.”
“It just tells me that I can go farther in my eventual goal of wanting to go to the Olympics,” she added.
“It just makes me feel a lot more confident in myself and my abilities as an athlete.”
Auton, who admits to getting some raised eyebrows when people find out about her involvement in the sport, loves how it has changed her life.
“I enjoy the mental discipline, because when I was 13, I didn’t have much of that,” she admitted.
She described herself as impulsive and constantly speaking without thinking first. In other words, a typical pre-teen.
But shooting requires concentration and mental focus.
“It takes massive amounts of mental energy to do that,” Auton said.
“Now I am a lot more of a focused individual in everything that I do. It translates over into all aspects of my life.”
She also spent 13 years in Irish dance, eventually giving it up to concentrate on shooting when it became obvious there was not enough time for both.
“Dance just didn’t do it for me in terms of centering myself and being grounded,” she explained. “I feel more comfortable in my shooting role and it is decision I haven’t regretted since.”
Auton, who graduated from the French Immersion program at Walnut Grove in 2009, works part-time at a coffee shop.
Training for competition adds another 12 to 15 hours per week, usually half of that spend at the range, and the other half for physical training.
“It takes a lot of commitment and devotion, but it has been worth it,” she said.
Muench a two-sport star
In a perfect world, they would create an event which combined Colton Muench’s two passions: kayaking and air pistol shooting.
After all, the Winter Games has biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with precision target shooting.
“That would be cool,” he responded when asked if he would love a hybrid of his two passions.
The 17-year-old Muench excels at both sports and eventually down the road, he will have to choose which one he wants to pursue. But until that happens, he will continue to excel at both.
Last July, during the B.C. Summer Games held in the Township of Langley, Muench won five gold medals in sprint kayaking. He also won silver at the national championships.
But over the next two weeks, his focus will be on something else: helping Team B.C. win gold at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
Muench will do so in target shooting.
His introduction to the sport came through his uncle and after Muench found a passion for it, he pursued it.
This was five or six years ago, and Muench has shown as much potential at the range as he has on the water.
“When it actually comes down to the competition, they are totally different (sports),” he said. “With shooting, you have a relaxed mind set; paddling is muscle and drive.”
Unsure of which one he will pursue exclusively, Muench trains feverishly for both, spending about six to eight hours a week at the Langley Rod and Gun Club, where he is a member, and then training twice a day, six days a week for kayaking. This involves sessions on the water as well as cross-training.
Muench is attending this summer’s western Canadian championships and is working towards earning a spot on Canada’s junior national team for kayaking, as well as qualifying for the Pan-American championships and world championships in target shooting.