Travis Harper is just 14 years old, and he’s already taking aim at a national title earning a spot to compete at the 2022 National Rifle Junior Olympic Championship in the U15 division.

“I think it’s pretty cool for me being still in middle school to go to an event like that it’s pretty cool,” Harper said.

Harper has been shooting for less than three years a natural marksman from the start.

“It’s always tough because the match that we have in January is kind of the early part of the season, so that’s kind of tough, but I was kind of surprised that he came through and shot that well that early,” Bismarck-Mandan Junior Marxman coach Tom Thompson said. “I mean, could see where his scores were coming up, but it was nice to shoot that good of a score early in the season. So that was a nice plus to qualify for junior Olympics.”

Harper won’t be the only Bismarck native firing off against some of the best shooters in the country.

“Just to shoot alongside these high ranking individuals it’s honestly exhilarating to be on the line next to the people who are some of the best of the best, and to think that I am in that same league, it’s great,” Garrett Langerud said. “I love it.”

Garrett Langerud will compete in the junior division earning his first trip to nationals in air rifle after shooting in the national small bore competition last season. It’s a goal that has taken him eight years to achieve.

“When somebody succeeds like that it’s a nice thing for coaches to see that,” Thompson said. “To see that the efforts we’ve been trying to help them with, and the effort they’ve been putting in, to see them succeed and do something like this it’s nice.”

Three years, or eight years, no matter how long it takes for success to come, these shooters say the sport brings together a community unlike any other.

“I love it, because there’s definitely some people that have an innate talent for this sport, and to look at them and see that you are 13-14 going to nationals, there is so much potential that you have,” Langerud said. “It’s great. I’m excited to see what Travis is capable of later.”

It’s not easy to reach the pinnacle of this sport shooting 60 shots per match and needing to score at least 92 percent to be competitive.

“You’re totally focused and concentrated for — a lot of these guys are pushing the limit of 2 hours — and it’s mentally draining to stand there and do that for that time frame,” Thompson said

The focus is sharp for these shooters while aiming at a circle that’s just a half millimeter wide, but the payoff of perfection is what makes it all worth it.

“Probably shooting a 10, or a really high scoring 10 it feels special because not a lot of people can do it, and whenever you do it multiple times it’s really exciting,” Harper said.

Both guys will be traveling to Hillsdale, Michigan, for the junior Olympic competition May 11-15.