While Craig's eastern neighbors boast of Winter Olympians, a program involving several of the country's best athletes in their sport is quietly developing in Moffat County.
Laura Tyler envisions a shooting range in the future Boys and Girls Club that will allow her air pistol program to flourish. A two-time national champion in 2003, Tyler's plans to compete for the United State Olympic team in 2004 were halted because of a shoulder injury. But her involvement and knowledge in the sport could help build a successful program in Craig.
"There have to be people willing to put in the time," she said. "But I think once we get set up there would be a lot of interest."
Tyler returned from the Olympic Training Center last week, where as an assistant coach for the national team she helped with a weekly camp for the top junior shooters in the country.
One of those shooters is 13-year-old Ari Osborn from Craig. Osborn has participated in two camps at the training center now and has been traveling to to compete at least once a month on a regular basis.
"Ari is talented enough to be on the national team now," Tyler said. "If he keeps the dedication he could be an Olympian in 2008 0r 2012."
For his age division, Osborn's scores of 520 and 530 are some of the best around. It takes a 485 to qualify for a national competition. This year he will compete in the Colorado State Junior Olympic Championship and if all goes well, he will qualify for the national championship.
"If he has a normal day, he'll make it to nationals," Tyler said.
As for Tyler, her role as assistant national coach doesn't earn her a trip to the Olympics, but it does take her to several tournaments around the world.
"I'll be taking four shooters to the Bavarian Air Gun Championships this year," she said. "The Germans and the Chinese are the top shooters in the world and it is good to see what we're up against."
Tyler said the young shooters she saw Dec. 27-Jan. 2 in Colorado Springs will be some of the best in the country for the next 15-20 years.
"Once they turn 20, they lose their junior status," she said. "From then if they put the work in, they could be on the national team for quite a while."
Shooters are given a chance every year to represent their country in some sort of championship. The Olympics and the World Championships take turns every two years and competitions like the Bavarian Air Gun Championships are annual events.
It will be a couple of years before Ari's chance to compete at the world level, but until then, Tyler hopes to make it so she doesn't have to roll her targets all around town to have a place for those interested to practice.
"We just need to knock that wall out," she said, pointing to a wall in her current storage room at the old Armory. "This would be the
Until that wall is out, Tyler has some coaching and rehabbing to do.
"I'm too low down on the totem pole to go to the Olympics as a coach," she said. "But if Ari goes or if I can get my shoulder better and qualify myself, I'll be there."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org