Middletown resident Mark Matheny recently won a shooting competition in the National Junior Olympics.

Mark Matheny is a 17-year-old home school student, who's also taken a few classes at the Delaware Technical and Community College, Stanton Campus to prepare for his higher education. He's considering schools such as Murray State and West Point, but wouldn't mind staying in the mid-Atlantic region if he can find the right education and a school with a shooting team.

But Mark also has high interest in a rare sport in this area: he's been shooting an air rifle and a small-bore, 22-caliber rifle for about two years on Saturday mornings, through the Delaware State Pistol Club.

Matheny said each weapon weighs about 14 pounds, and takes tremendous concentration to shoot effectively. He recently came in first place in the Junior Olympics in the air rifle division.

Matheny said he wouldn't call himself a "Gun Nut", rather he considers himself a shooting enthusiast. He entered his first competition about a year ago and has been working on shooting ever since.

When asked about the weight of the firearms, he said, "the heavier the better, since lighter firearms tend to move on you when you are shooting." Matheny said in small bore competitions, you shoot from three positions, standing, kneeling and prone, or lying down, while in air rifle you just shoot from the standing position.

During the winter months practices take place at indoor venues, then practices are moved outdoors once springtime arrives. In small-bore, the targets are generally about 50 meters away, and in summer time, the targets are about 50 yards distant.

His advice to young shooters who may or may not wish to enter competitions is simple: "You may want to take some initial training, find a rifle or pistol that's confortable, then just go out and shoot in a certified area," he said.

Matheny said shooters don't have to be great athletes, but rather they need to have lots of mental training and discipline. "And despite what some critics say, shooting is a safe, organized sport in which you can participate for many years," he said.

Matheny plans to travel to Camp Perry in Ohio this July to further work on his shooting skills. His ultimate goal is to be a member of the U.S. Olympic team, when the Olympics take place in Brazil.