Alison Weisz is one of the stars of the Ole Miss Rifle team. Growing up in Belgrade, a small town in Montana just outside of Bozeman, Weisz has excelled in her sport since arriving in Mississippi. Nicknamed “Annie Oakley” as a child because of her good aim, Weisz now hopes to lead the Rebels as she moves into her junior year. From Montana to Mississippi, HottyToddy.com talks to Weisz about her “deep love” for her sport.
Hotty Toddy: When did you first become interested in this sport?
I guess you could say when I was roughly 9 years old and I saw a flyer in my school for a gun safety program. I begged my parents to sign me up. They decided since I was growing up in an area [where] hunting was very popular, that I could encounter a gun one day and I should know how to handle it. What I didn’t expect was that it turned out to also include competitive target shooting. I was told I had some natural talent and I should stick with it, so I did. I instantly loved the idea that in rifle it’s just you and the gun. It isn’t like volleyball or other sports where one play might rest completely on your shoulders. It is more individualized and then comes together in the end as a team.
Hotty Toddy: I suspect readers won’t be that familiar with rifle shooting as a sport, so how would you explain it?
I can’t help but laugh a little every time I get a question like this. Rifle may not be as well known, but it’s the same intensity, if not maybe even a little more. To put it simply, there’s not much action on the firing line. There’s not a lot of movement or crazy intense plays, there’s no yelling and screaming from the crowd. To many it might seem very boring because of the lack of those things. In our range, spectators have their own section, so they are free to talk and move about themselves as they wish, and they see use through a couple of glass walls. We don’t move much, but all of the action appears on a television screen in the spectator area.
As soon as we take each shot, the spectators can see on the screen the exact place we shot it. It is very meticulous. Also they should expect to see the athletes wearing what appears to be funny outfits and walking funny as well. Our “uniform” is a suit (pants and a jacket) made of a somewhat stiff canvas, which we wear while we shoot to help with stability and endurance.
At the elite level and international level, winning can come down to just tenths of a point. That tenth of a point is due to a difference of millimeters on the target down range. We shoot with metallic “peep” sights, not a scope. So when we look down range we simply see a black dot. But we don’t just want to hit the black dot; we want to hit the exact center of that black dot, called a 10.9. The 10 is the size of the period at the end of this sentence. If you just clip that dot it results in a 10, but the more you cover the dot with your shot the higher the value.
Hotty Toddy: Why did you choose to come to the University of Mississippi?
Rifle was definitely the biggest reason. I wanted to continue playing the sport to a high level, but I was also attracted to Ole Miss for other key reasons. I fell in love with the campus, the culture, the people and our range is one of the nicest in collegiate shooting. The facilities are incredible. I could see how the athletic department was a big family, and that is what I needed being so far from home. Southern hospitality was a new concept for me but I really enjoy it.
Hotty Toddy: What do you like best about being on the rifle team?
The level of support you get from everyone is just fantastic. Not just the coaches, who are fun to work with and always supportive, but the team itself and the other staff members. I guess that is just being an athlete in general. I’ve noticed that the whole Ole Miss community is strongly tied, and other athletes seem to connect with one another on a very personal level. Another aspect of being on the team here that I always take a lot of pride from is having someone talk down about the sport and then having him or her try it out for themselves. They realize how wrong they were, especially if they can’t even hit the target. It’s nice to gain respect from people.
Hotty Toddy: What are your strengths as a rifle athlete?
I think my main strength as a rifle athlete is due to my years of practice and hard work. I have all of the physical things I need and know what a good shot looks like and how to take it. If the shot isn’t where I called it, I can adjust for it and do what I need to do to make it better. Only through hard work and persistence have I been able to get to the level I am today.
Hotty Toddy: Are there any weaknesses that you feel you still need to work on to become even better?
Yes! There are always things to work on and improving will be never ending. Because rifle isn’t a very intense sport physically, it is very intense mentally. It is actually about 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. A weakness for me comes from the mental portion with handling expectations, disappointments, acceptance and things of the like. In rifle you could simply think about taking a bad shot, and the result is generally a bad shot – unless you get lucky.
Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to any aspiring rifle athlete in high school would wanted to continue the sport at university?
The same thing most people tell young athletes. Never give up. The highs and lows, the sacrifices and the experiences, they are all worth it. Surround yourself with those who fully support you. Don’t let people put you down or make you feel like you’re not good enough, because you are. And remember that everyone has a bad day every now and then, and that’s okay. Plus don’t let parents put too much pressure on you. I’ve heard of a lot of shooters who have so much talent but their parents make it too hard on them at too young of an age.
Hotty Toddy: What do you find most difficult about combining college athletics and being a student?
Definitely time management and balancing your life. Most students who don’t have athletics joke about having to pick two between sleep, social life and good grades. As an athlete you have to add your performance and still figure out how to balance things such as workouts, team practices, competitions, study hall hours and more. It’s definitely tough, and some days are a lot harder than others. Overall, though, I believe it shapes you into a more mature, well-rounded person.
Hotty Toddy: What are your future goals in rifle while at Mississippi and after you graduate?
I hope to continue to help lead the team and strengthen the program. I want to leave knowing I made a difference, and to leave it better than I found it, as the saying goes. I hope to participate in the NCAA championships, earn All-American accolades and help break school records. All in all, I want to be the best I can be for my team, my school and God who gave me the talent. Rifle is a sport that you never grow out of or grow too old to do. It is a lifelong sport, so I plan to make it that. As most, I aspire to get closer and closer to the Olympic level and try to do that. If I could fulfill this dream it would be incredible. What’s more, I would also love to coach any level of shooting given the opportunity. Sometimes I consider opening up my own range and starting a club or high school team. I have a deep love for this sport and it will be hard for me to ever let it go.
Story contributed by Joe Rogers, Ole Miss history major and journalism minor, email@example.com.