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Warrington teen takes aim at Junior Olympics

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Warrington resident Julia Tomczak might be unique in that there are few Bucks County residents trying to win a Junior Olympic medal this year in shooting sports. She’s the only person – male or female – trying to capture the gold from the greater Philadelphia area and that includes Bucks County.

It all started innocently enough, says Tomczak, a 17-year-old freshman at Bucks County Community College who only recently graduated early from Central Bucks South.

“My dad was a small game hunter when he was younger and he wanted me to learn about gun safety so he took me to a local gun range to have me shoot.

“I learned how to handle a rifle properly and he took me there every Friday night,” she said.

“It’s progressed now into shooting competitively in the sport.”

Tomczak recently qualified to compete in the National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships (NJOSC) April 14 to 18 in Colorado Springs. In an air rifle qualifying event held earlier this year at West Point Military Academy, she scored 570 of a possible 600 points, paving the way to her trip to Colorado.

Make no mistake, it’s not as simple as all that.

Her coach – who is also her dad – might have said it best when trying to explain what it’s like trying to hit a three-centimeter bullseye from a distance of 10 meters (30 feet) while competing in statewide air rifle events.

“It’s like trying to shoot the period off the end of a sentence,” said Ben Tomczak.

Julia Tomczak is hoping the third time is the charm.

She missed the national cut last year but in 2017, she scored a two-day total of 1,117 points in small bore rifle, placing her in the middle of the pack in a field of 66. A competition using a firearm, small bore contestants must hit the target from 50 meters away in three different positions – kneeling, standing and prone.

While air rifle is different from small bore, Tomczak is happy to be going back to nationals.

“It feels good; I am excited that I got the chance to qualify again this year,” said Tomczak. “The last time I was (in Colorado Springs) was in 2017. And I missed (nationals) in 2018.

“So I’m really excited to have the opportunity again to go out there.”

Tomczak practices the sport at least twice a week including every weekend when she and her dad travel to clubs in upstate Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.

But it’s tough to participate in a sport where local gun clubs don’t formulate shooting teams that compete at a state or a national level.

That’s part of the reason why Tomczak’s dad got involved in coaching, to the point where he went out and earned the credentials that give him the ability to help area youths qualify for Junior Olympic competitions like the ones Tomczak competes in.

Still, Ben Tomczak was surprised that his daughter has taken shooting this far. She practices two, three times a week for two to three hours at a time, including the time she spends aiming at targets in a makeshift air rifle range in her basement.

“Julia has taken this to a level I never thought she would,” admitted her father.

And Julia Tomczak is impressed with her dad’s coaching ability.

“It’s cool to see him instill that knowledge in other kids who want to take it to the next level,” she said.

“Even if they don’t, just him helping them figure out how to hold the rifle correctly and getting them educated with it.”

While there are no shooting teams at CB South, none at BCCC and none at Delaware Valley University where she intends to major in food science and chemistry this fall, Tomczak plans to keep progressing up the ladder in the world of shooting sports.

Next year at DelVal, she will strive to attain status as a National Rifle Association All-American in the rifle program. To qualify as an All-American, student athletes must demonstrate academic strength in the classroom as well as athletic capability on the rifle range.

Though she does not benefit from sponsorships with any local gun clubs as do most of her national competitors, she says, next year she will still try to participate in the Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championships as an individual. Her father says they typically culminate in a national event held each March in Fort Benning, Ga.

Tomczak likes the fact that shooting is a sport in which participants can compete at any age.

But shooting involves much more than squeezing a trigger, say both daughter and father. Shooting sports are both physically and mentally demanding, they say.

Tomczak hopes to use the knowledge she’s gained in the sport to overcome obstacles in college and in life.

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