GREENFIELD — Josh Cochard has grown used to the staring. And the unavoidable question that follows.
“Why do you wear wrist weights to school?” his Hoosier Academy — a hybrid online and on-campus school in Indianapolis — classmates and teachers ask him.
The answer they receive is not one they expect. Though, to be fair, it is difficult to blame them.
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Cochard, 17, explains in a quiet yet confident tone that he wears the weights to improve his marksmanship.
That answer inevitably yields a few follow-up questions, the Greenfield resident said with a chuckle.
Wearing wrist weights is a practice he and his Hancock County 4-H shooting sports teammates took up after their coach, Bill Jordan, told them his son’s aim dramatically improved after spending a summer as a welder’s assistant building up arm strength.
“They kinda picked the wrist weight thing on their own,” Jordan said. “Those kids are pretty competitive.”
They are pretty successful, too. In less than 10 days, Cochard and two of his teammates will be headed to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado to shoot against some of the top marksmen in the country at the National Junior Olympics Championships.
Marion County residents Gavin Carrico and Gabrielle Raisor — Marion County 4-H does not have a shooting program, hence Raisor and Carrico’s involvement — join Cochard as three of the four marksmen all of Indiana will send to shoot in Colorado, a fact that makes Jordan particularly proud.
Their qualification for the Junior Olympics, April 24 to 29, is the culmination of years worth of dedicated work put forth by both the 4-H Club leaders and, more importantly, its young members.
“In all three cases, these kids put in significant time for practice,” Jordan said. “Over the past few years, they have been willing to listen not just to me but to other instructors as well. In fact, all three of them traveled to Illinois to be coached by one of the best coaches in that nation a few weeks ago. They just have an immense desire to learn.”
The trip to Illinois, said Deborah Cochard, Josh’s mother, was to train with high-level coaches who could teach them the subtleties of the competitions ahead.
Both Raisor, 16, and Carrico, 16, will aim for Junior Olympic gold in the air pistol and sports pistol competitions, which are separated by age and gender.
Josh Cochard’s focus will solely be on the sports pistol competition, which calls for him to shoot 60 targets in three 20-round sets.
For Raisor, this will be her third trek to the championships. But for both Carrico and Josh Cochard, it will be their first.
Josh Cochard confessed he is more than a little anxious about the competition and fears his nerves might overwhelm and make his aim less than true.
“Just going is a big, big thing,” he said. “I know if I don’t shoot well, at least I made it.”
However, he does have a few things working in his favor.
Most importantly, shooting is in his blood. The first time he picked up a bow an arrow was in third grade at an archery class his mom was teaching. His father, Brian, also is in 4-H and has spent time involved in the shooting sports, and his five siblings have been trained in most, if not all, the disciplines.
In the past decade, while not always involved in competitive shooting, Josh Cochard has handled rifles, shotguns, and of course .22 caliber handguns, the weapon of choice in the sport pistol competition. The second thing working in his favor he has been practicing for nearly six hours a week for about five years.
The Hancock County 4-H Shooting Program has had the benefit of support from its surrounding community, unlike some other areas, Jordan said.
Josh Cochard and his nearly 100 teammates normally practice at the Greenfield 4-H fairgrounds or at Highsmith Guns. But they also have been allowed to use the shooting ranges at Greenfield sheriff’s department and other spots in the county.
Finally, Cochard has a healthy outlook on his chances of success. To win, Cochard will have to out-shoot at least 20 other participants, something he is not even sure he is aiming for. At least, not yet.
“I’m just going to try and have fun this time, and know that I can be back there next year,” he said.
The National Junior Olympic Championship, hosted by USA Shooting, is a three-week program involving three sections of shooting, Women’s Rifle, Pistol and Men’s Rifle. Hancock County 4-H members Josh Cochard, Gavin Carrico and Gabrielle Raisor will be competing in the Pistol competition.
When: April 24-29.
Where: At the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Who: Those who scored above the second-round cutoff score. For Cochard’s event, the men’s sport pistol, the score was 445. Each competitor gets 60 shots. A bullseye is worth 10 points. Sixty bullseyes would result in a perfect score, 600. Scoring varies by event.