Recent grad becomes only second rifle athlete from school to compete at college level

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FARMINGTON — As Josephine John’s accuracy as a marksmen improved, her confidence has grown.

The recent Piedra Vista graduate started shooting with more of an open-palm grip last season, leading to additional high-percentage results in both air rifle and .22 caliber rifle shooting competitions.

And now John is convinced she can help the University of Texas-El Paso’s women’s rifle program, which has a strong reputation for high-percentage accuracy in the air rifle competition, after signing her national letter of intent with the Miners today via athletic scholarship.

"They currently have six girls, and half of their girls really do have that precise accuracy," John said.

John is only the second PV rifle athlete to compete at the college level.

UTEP, an NCAA Division I program, is one of 30 rifle programs in the country. John said UTEP is ranked in the top half of that group.

John is only the second recruit for first-year UTEP coach Austin Litherland. John also said Litherland is known for helping rifle athletes improve their mental toughness for the long haul.

According to UTEP’s athletic website, one of Litherland’s former shooters made the 2016 U.S. Olympic rifle team.

As she prepares for the next level, John admitted her mental toughness is still a work in progress when it comes to competing on the big stage.

“Anxiety does get to me when I compete nationally,” John said, adding she’s still working on maintaining calm in those tougher moments.

However, John said that anxiety is gradually decreasing and will only keep decreasing with additional experience at national tournaments.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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