Necessary Focus

  • By Shannon McNamara
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  • January 20, 2012 09:49 AM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - West Virginia University rifle sharp shooter Thomas Kyanko is not a fan of unnecessary attention. The focused redshirt-freshman takes a business-first approach to life; tasks are completed in order of importance level.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Wellsburg, W.Va., native has not shared with many that he developed the live scoring site the Mountaineers utilize for all home matches.

The computer science major has a very simple answer for his discretion.

“I don’t like to be really well known for working with all of that kind of stuff because then I feel everyone will come up to me with requests,” he laughed. “Especially here, at the range, I always like to not have to deal with the site until after I’m done shooting. I like to stay focused in the range.”

Kyanko’s focus has proven steady this season for the Mountaineers. Boasting the team’s third-best combined score season average (1166.14), he has assumed the role of an every-match counter in air rifle and smallbore. Near the top of the score sheet each match, Kyanko most recently finished second overall against Akron on Jan. 14 with a personal-best 1174 combined score. He also placed second in air rifle with a 594 mark, also a personal best, and third in smallbore with a score of 580.

Deflecting attention once again, Kyanko says he doesn’t put much though in to his role on the team. Instead, he is most concerned with fulfilling his job.

“We lost so many people from last year’s team to graduation; I really wasn’t sure what role I would play this year,” he explained. “I guess, in a sense, this is what I was hoping for. I’m here to just shoot my best, and that’s what I’ve been doing so far, so that’s good.”

Kyanko’s success began last summer. After redshirting his first season at WVU, the US Junior National team member went to the 2011 USA Shooting National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. There, he won the junior men’s 50m 3 position title with a combined two-day open relay total of 2324 (1159,1165); he secured the Gold medal with a 94.8 showing in the final for a score of 2418.8. His score was so strong that he qualified for the men’s 50m 3 position final and finished third overall with a final tally of 2421.8 (2324, 97.8).

Additionally, Kyanko collected the Bronze medal in the junior men’s 10m air rifle and finished in ninth place in the junior men’s 50m rifle prone; he also placed 14th in the men’s air rifle division.

“It was nice to start comparing myself to not only college shooters, but also everyone else (on the international stage),” Kyanko said. “Doing well at nationals was a different experience, too, because I did better than I had in previous years. That was especially nice, given that I didn’t do as well as I wanted at the Junior Olympics. To turn around just a few months later and shoot well at nationals was good.”

Kyanko says the confidence boost he received over the summer has helped stimulate his early Mountaineer success.

“It was nice to come in this season and already know that I could achieve a certain level of success in smallbore,” he said. “It was nice to feel completely confidant in that gun and know that all I had to do was concentrate on air rifle.

“Recently, I started picking up my air rifle scores. It’s been nice to be on the upper end of the college scores lately.”

Kyanko has the opportunity to display his improved shooting against one of the nation’s top teams, as No. 5-ranked Alaska-Fairbanks competes against the No. 3 Mountaineers today at the WVU Rifle Range.

“I don’t think the team atmosphere will be any different (today) than at our other matches,” Kyanko said of the perceived rivalry between WVU and Alaska, two teams that own a combined 24 NCAA titles. “I think we all aren’t worried about who we’re shooting against – we’re just worried about ourselves. We basically shoot against ourselves, and we’re always trying to push ourselves and make ourselves better.”

Following their meeting with the Nanooks, the Mountaineers will travel to Ohio State on Jan. 23. Kyanko says he is more excited for the match with the Buckeyes because OSU will play host to the 2012 NCAA Championships, and he believes the knowledge he will gain of the range this weekend will be beneficial in March.

“We shoot a lot of home matches, and after awhile you start to become comfortable with your home range,” he explained. “It’s nice to be able to go to other ranges; that’s why I like our road matches so much. Your perception of everything is a little different on the road and in another range. For me, it’s easier to get in to a match mindset on the road.”

At the end of the day, whether WVU fans are watching the Mountaineers at the range or following the squad on-line, one thing is evident – the squad’s scores are on the rise. Kyanko says that his progress, and the team’s progress, is just where they should be.

“If you look at how fast we improved last semester, I think we’re set,” he concluded. “With everyone coming back and shooting better than last semester, I think we’re setting ourselves up nicely. With the championships less than two months away, we’re going to be ready to peak right around NCAAs.”