South Tahoe marksman scores bull’s-eye in prep league |

South Tahoe marksman scores bull’s-eye in prep league

Chad Sellmer, Tribune staff writer

Chad SellmerLuis Gomez, a South Tahoe High senior, finished 21st out of 3,000 shooters in the high school air rifle national championships

South Tahoe senior Luis Gomez has had this year in his sights.

The Vikings’ top air rifle marksman enjoyed a first-place finish in three of four categories out of 120 shooters from eight area high schools in league competition this year. Competition consists of hitting as close to the center as possible on 10 different targets within a set amount of time. Tournaments include three shooting positions — standing, kneeling and prone — making a total of 30 targets.

Gomez, a 17-year-old Navy Junior ROTC cadet and former executive officer, captured first-place league trophies by posting the highest average score over the three-month season in the standing and kneeling position and in the overall total.

The eight-school league consists of South Tahoe, Eureka, Chaparral, Luther Burbank, Incline, Reed, Carson and Fallon. Gomez also was 21st out of 3,000 shooters in the sport’s national championships.

Senior Naval Science instructor Matt Williams noted there are “a good 100 colleges offering shooting as a varsity sport” as well as the Olympic games and international competitions.

The standard distance for air rifles is 10 meters (or approximately 33 feet) and the targets are about the size of a silver dollar.

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Gomez is one of 12 members of the school’s marksmanship team. The team uses high-level, .177 caliber air (pellet) rifles for competition, as does Incline’s team, because any larger firearms are prohibited in the Tahoe Basin, according to ROTC Senior Chief Darwin Sharpe.

“Many shooters are going to the air rifle because it’s a much more expensive venture if you’re going to shoot small (.22) caliber rifles … it’s more dangerous and it requires more room,” Sharpe said.

Gomez, who has been shooting competitively for three years, called Sharpe his “inspiration” for working to become one of the area’s top marksmen.

“He was definitely my inspiration and he pushed me along,” Gomez said, adding that his interest in competitive shooting came from friends’ encouragement, as well as mainstream Hollywood films.

“I was interested in being competitive and shooting,” he said. “I saw movies like ‘Rambo’ as a kid, and I guess I just wanted to see if it was true, that you could point the rifle and hit your target. When I joined ROTC I didn’t really want to be in shooting, but I had friends who were doing it. I like the mentality. It’s relaxed and I’m able to shoot to the best of my ability.”

The bilingual Gomez hopes to join the Marine Corps following graduation, where he would like to specialize in translating.

“I would like to be a sniper, but my vision isn’t perfect,” he said. “I want to make (the Marine Corps) a lifelong career.”

Williams praised Gomez’s dedication to the sport and to everything he does at the high school.

“He is a member of everything we do,” Williams said. “It’s really amazing. He is a very active student in terms of community service, athletics, academic teams, the orienteering team. He’s just excellent in everything he does.”