Hard Work and Talent

  • By Ashleigh Pollart
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  • January 13, 2012 11:47 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - A chance friendship between his father and the coach of the local 4H Rifle Club, and a whole lot of natural talent are what started Taylor Ciotola's journey, but it was hard work and dedication that ultimately led him to the doorstep of the West Virginia University Rifle Range. Other schools, including GARC foe, Kentucky, were also recruiting the Pasadena, Md., smallbore specialist, but it was the Mountaineers' reputation that influenced Ciotola to join the roster of WVU's 15th National Championship seeking-team.

Ciotola was not always the confident shooter he is now.

"I had to come off the line three or four times because I was so nervous," laughed Ciotola of his first match at the 4H State Championship at age 12. "Yet, I won my first medal at my first match, so that was pretty cool.”

Ciotola, an avid hunter and fisherman, started out playing basketball like most elementary aged boys, but it was rifle's need for a dedicated athlete that attracted him to focus solely on the sport.

"It takes a lot of practice; anyone can pick up a ball and throw it, but there are a lot of people who get good really fast with rifle either because they have natural talent or they work really, really hard,” Ciotola explained.

Not that Ciotola is putting down any other sport; he frequently spends his free time (hard to find between being a contributing student-athlete on a nationally ranked rifle team and a forest resources management major) at volleyball, baseball, basketball and football games. Spending time with his girlfriend and teammates also are some of his pastimes.

According to Ciotola, the difference between shooting for a 4H team and a collegiate team is monumental, but beneficial.

"The 4H team was never really a team, it was more of an individual thing," he said as he explained going to national championships as a solo competitor. "It feels good to be part of a team; challenging for the fourth and fifth spot on the team has made me work a lot harder than I would have three or four years ago."

While in the range, Ciotola looks up to one of his teammates in particular for guidance - senior Justin Pentz, who Ciotola says has a unique shooting style worth emulating.

"Justin takes his own breaks and takes his time which I try to model because when I start to shoot fast, I start to shoot worse and I get into a bad rhythm," explained Ciotola. "So I'm trying to work with him and take steps the steps he took to get better."

Like Pentz's past scores, Ciotola's smallbore score is outstanding while his air rifle is not quite where he wants it for NCAA competition. His goal for this year is to get the air rifle scores to be just as outstanding as smallbore.

As for the team's unified goal, one would assume that the WVU rifle team is only dreaming of another national championship, but as Ciotola explained, the team's goal is much more incremental than that.

"At the beginning of the year, we said that that was not going to be one of our goals," he explained. "Instead we were going to take the correct steps to get to that goal."

The undefeated Mountaineers will continue to check off these steps and work towards their goals as they head into the seventh match of the season against Akron this Saturday, January 14, at the WVU Rifle Range.