National Olympian, Alana Townsend
NDSU Sophomore takes pistol shooting to international levels
Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 09:02
Squeezing a bullet through the bull’s-eye 10 meters away would possibly require some family background of military snipers with hardcore training and militant motivation. However growing up on the farm, 19-year-old National Olympian Alana Marie Townsend needed only the words of a mother who could see into the future of her kids, and she would prove everyone wrong.
“I started shooting Sporter Air Rifle when I was nine,” Townsend, affectionately known in some media circles as the “farm girl,” said. “I wasn’t very good when I started. I was not good at all, but my mom made me stick with it, and it proved that she was right that I actually had a future with shooting.”
The NDSU sophomore started out her target-shooting career some 10 years ago on a small family farm in Kalispell, Mont., where she and her family grew winter wheat and alfalfa hay.
The agribusiness major joined the youth development organization, 4-H, at the age of five, where she participated in Cloverbuds projects until she was nine before becoming a regular who could shoot the Sporter Air Rifle. At age 12, Townsend “picked up (the shooting pistol) right away and was pretty good at it.”
While attending Glacier High School in Montana, she joined another national organization, the Future Farmers of America, through which she earned her first state degree. She is currently looking forward to receiving her first American Degree, which is the highest degree in FFA in October 2014.
The 2012 Junior Category National Champion also joined the Flathead Country Shooting Sports when she was nine years old, an adventure she says “sparked her interest in shooting.”
Townsend was on the 2009 Montana air pistol team finishing third in the national 4-H shooting competition. A year later, she made the Junior Olympics team. She traveled to Plzen, Czech Republic in 2011 where she placed 11th, then again in 2012 but placed 18th on that occasion. She did feature the World Cup in Fort Benning, Ga. in which she came 35th.
From then, Townsend rose to occupy the second place in the open division and third in women’s when she participated in the March 2013 National Rifle Association Intercollegiate competitions.
Townsend attributed her source of inspiration to her family, close friends and coaches. Her mom’s words of encouragement were a major factor that would propel her to the level of National Olympics Championships, making her one of the best pistol shooters in the country. But she included another factor, her inner drive to keep shooting, which she said is “something I love to do.”
In reflection of the most memorable moment in her life as a national Olympian, the Junior Olympics Developmental Team “sniper” revealed that she has had so many of such occasions that picking out one would be tough. She, however, managed to select a couple of moments.
Her rise as the champion of the April 2013 National Junior Olympics Pistol Competition was one memorable occasion, which crowned her the top junior in the United States, making her “feel on top of the world.”
“I was so close a couple of years before that, and so winning it finally made me so happy,” Townsend said.
She also referenced her most recent performance that placed her at 8th position out of the over 50 competitors at the Bavarian Air Gun Championships in Munich, Germany last month. This competition saw her come face to face against some of the best pistol shooters in the world.
She described this completion as “a big deal,” as she tied her personal best of 382 out of 400 possible points and emerged the only American to make the final set.
Townsend revealed that prior to competitions, she does not feel nervous at all because she knows she is getting prepared for the match.
“When I get to the match and start seeing all the competitors and finally get into the range, I start getting a little bit nervous. I get butterflies in my stomach,” Townsend said. “I mean, it happens to everybody, but once I start shooting and getting into my rhythm, I’m fine and I know that I prepared the best that I could for the match. I’m going to do the best that I can, and I can’t be disappointed with that.”
Townsend’s campus life is a typical mix of heavily loaded academic and sports activities since she enrolls full-time and doubles as the North Dakota State University’s marksmanship team member. She is also a member of the Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority. This did not keep her busy enough: she also works part-time job at Macy’s in Fargo.
Looking into the future, Townsend expressed her desire to make the Olympic team for 2016 season, but for now, she would rather prioritize her education. All else working according to her plans, the Olympian is expected to graduate from NDSU in 2016. Although, she says she would gladly welcome the opportunity to represent her country in the 2016 Olympic games scheduled to take place in Brazil, a move she admits could extend her graduation by an academic year.
Townsend also has ambitious plans for 2020, as she sees herself “going through the second half of the Olympic trials, and competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.”