By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — One local middle-schooler is aiming her sights on success.
Elizabeth Dutton, 13, will represent New Hampshire in the 2013 Junior Olympic Air Rifle Championships next month in Denver, Colo.
Elizabeth is in the eighth grade at West Running Brook Middle School.
She competed in the New Hampshire Junior Olympic championships in December at the Hudson Fish and Game Club. At the age of 13, she beat out other competitors in the women’s category with a score of 371 out of a possible 400 points, earning her first gold medal.
She also won a silver medal in the small-bore .22-caliber competition, earning her own personal best score.
Elizabeth learned the sport of precision rifle shooting when she was very young.
At age 7, she participated in an NRA/4-H sponsored junior rifle program hosted at the Chester Rod and Gun Club.
By then, she knew it was something she wanted to do.
“My dad bought me my first rifle at Christmas when I was 7,” she said.
Her father, Bill Dutton, is a seven-time state shooting champion. He said he was impressed with his young daughter’s talents.
“At age 11 she tried out for the Hudson Fish and Game Club’s junior rifle team, where she is now a regular member,” Dutton said. “At 13, she competed in her first national championships in Ohio, performing well among the top in her age category.”
The Hudson Fish and Game Club junior rifle team trains and participates all year long in competitive small-bore and precision air rifle.
Team members range from 10 to 20 years of age and compete in NRA indoor and outdoor sectionals, regional competitions and also travel to matches across the nation.
The team has produced past state and national champions. Several members have gone on to compete in NCAA Rifle in college, some earning athletic scholarships in rifle.
Some have also earned invitations to compete in the Junior Olympic National Championships in Colorado.
Elizabeth said she is deep in her training mode for next month’s Olympics, practicing several times a week with her team.
Joining Elizabeth at the National Junior Rifle Olympics next month are her teammates Lacy Hamelin of Chesterfield, and Jo Nikiforakis and Alex Martin, both of Swanzey.
They are more than just teammates.
“My team (members) are my best friends,” she said. “I get to travel with them and it’s fun.”
Bill Dutton said he is proud of his daughter, but takes little credit for introducing her to the sport.
“She has executed her goals,” he said.
Dutton gave credit to the Hudson Fish and Game Club for helping forge his daughter’s talents and creating championship shooters as part of their programs.
“I have a very small part in her success,” he said.