CHARLESTON, S.C. – Freshman Izzie Blystone of the 23rd-ranked Citadel mixed rifle team had a year to remember in her first full season of collegiate competition, and she still has one more competition coming up.
The Aiken, South Carolina native officially wrapped up her freshman campaign on Sunday, March 3 at the 2019 Southern Conference Rifle Championships. To say Blystone put together a strong showing would be an understatement as she finished second overall with an aggregate score of 1154, including finishing in the top 10 in both smallbore and air rifle.
The SoCon Co-Freshman of the Year and Smallbore Shooter of the Month for February earned second-team All-SoCon honors in smallbore after improving her scores in that gun by 20 points over the course of the season.
Blystone also improved her aggregate score by over 40 points, and improved her air rifle score by close to 35 points.
Those improvements will serve her well in early April as she will travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado to compete in the 2019 National Junior Olympics at the U.S Olympic Training Center, April 12-15.
This will be Blystone's third time competing in the Junior Olympics, but it is her first time advancing to the championships in Colorado, and she has set some goals for herself.
"Since I'm able to focus on just air, I would like to hit 590 this year," Blystone said. "Mostly, I just want to make the most out of the trip. I've never been to Colorado and I'll be staying at the Olympic Training Center, so I want to get the most out of the facilities and the experience of being there."
Reaching 590 is an attainable goal for Blystone. Her best air rifle score of the season was a 589 set on Feb. 9 in a home competition against No. 19 North Georgia. Blystone shot 580 or better in air six times over the course of the 2018-19 season, and each time, Blystone went into air after shooting three-position smallbore with just a short break in between.
Having competed for an entire season at the collegiate level, Blystone is excited for the stiff competition she will go up against and the new challenges that await.
First-year head coach Richie Parra will accompany Bystone out to Colorado.
"It's awesome for Izzie to qualify the final year she is eligible," Parra said. "In the fall, she in shooting around the 540s in air and 520 in smallbore, and she has increased her scores in both disciplines. It's incredible, especially since she hasn't had the same experience that some of her competitors have had. She is able to compete at the same level. It has to be a thrilling experience for her, and it is just awesome.
"The main thing I want her to do is keep an eye on the other shooters," Parra continued. "There will be some very tough competitors there. I don't want her to compare herself to them, but I want her to learn and observe what the other competitors do that make them so successful."
The week will begin with registration and equipment check on Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13. Sunday, April 14 will feature training and three relays of the first match. Monday, April 15 will feature another three relays in the second match followed by the finals.