OLD TOWN, Maine — As Garrett Libby lines up a 3-point shot for the Old Town boys basketball team this winter, his focus is as much cerebral as it is physical.
“It’s all mental really,” said Libby, a junior forward for the Coyotes. “You have to have good form, but most of it is in your head. You have to have the right mind-set.”
In fact, it’s no different whether the target is a basket or an actual target on a shooting range for Libby, who spent last weekend participating in the 2012 Army JROTC National Marksmanship Championships at the Camp Perry Army National Guard Base in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Libby earned a berth in the nationwide competition by posting a top score during a qualifying competition late last year — not bad since he’s just a first-year member of the JROTC marksmanship team at Old Town High School.
“It is an incredible accomplishment to be selected to compete,” said Col. Amedeo Lauria, the JROTC commander at Old Town.
Cadets such as Libby can compete in two different three-position air rifle events in these JROTC competitions. Precision air rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and shooting equipment. Sporter air rifle is designed for competitors who want to compete with little customization or specialized shooting equipment.
Libby took part in the sporter air rifle division, in which each competitor gets to take 20 shots at a target from the prone, kneeling and standing positions. Participants got 30 minutes for unlimited practice and competition shots from the prone and kneeling positions and 40 minutes from the standing position.
“The time really flies by pretty fast,” Libby said.
The three-day national event, which was held simultaneously at both Camp Perry and Anniston, Ala., featured 179 of the top high school marksmen from around the country. Point totals were based on the number of bull’s-eyes achieved as well as other shots within various scoring rings within the target circle.
While Libby didn’t post one of the top scores in the national competition with his .177 caliber CO2-powered rifle that shoots BB pellets, he was realistic about his finish given the experience level of most of the other participants, many of whom were shooting at bigger long-range targets — such as JROTC marksmanship scholarships, or even more.
“I did all right,” Libby said. “The competition was definitely a lot tougher than I thought it would be. A lot of the kids that were there are hoping to be on the Olympic shooting team one day, that’s their big thing.
“My big thing is basketball, that’s what I work at the most and shooting just came along.”
Libby was one of the top long-range shooters in the Big East Conference this winter, shooting 37 percent overall from beyond the arc — including an 0-for-21 start to the season from long range — while averaging 19.5 points per contest for coach Brian McDormand’s Old Town club, which finished its regular season with a 5-13 record and two spots out of qualifying for the Eastern Maine Class B playoffs.
“I was making them fairly consistently in practice, so I felt OK about it,” said Libby about his early season slump. “But I had lost my confidence and when I’d miss the first one in a game I’d let it get to me. It all came down to getting to the gym a little bit and working on it, and it didn’t take long to get to the point where I had a hard time missing.”
Libby went on to make 44 percent of his 3-point tries for the rest of the season after his slow start — including eight in one game while scoring a career-high 39 points in a victory over Washington Academy of East Machias.
Libby also shot 48 percent on his 2-point attempts for the season and 76 percent from the free-throw line.
“When it comes to any type of competition,” Libby said, “in my eyes it’s almost 100 percent mental. You have to have the mentality that you’re going to make the shot when you shoot it.”