Getting good grades in school should be the goal for all student-athletes.
It turns out those with sharp minds have a better chance at becoming sharp shooters on an air rifle team.
That's what Paul Borkowski has noticed during his long tenure in the sport, so much so that during his 46 seasons as Alden coach that he checked grades before choosing the team.
"The good student is usually a good shooter," said Borkowski, the Section VI chairman who is serving as an assistant at Alden after stepping down as head coach last year. "I always aimed at getting kids with good grades because they were always dedicated and always trying to correct things. They've always worked well."
It's a trend that continues to work for the Bulldogs. Emily Szymanski, Maggie Arnold, Cailyn Bennett and Megan Gabbey each have averages over 90 in the classroom, according to Borkowski. They're also Alden's top four shooters – helping the team to a 10-0 mark in regular-season ECIC competition.
Szymanski has posted the third-highest score in competition this season in Section VI with a 290. Gabbey's hit 287, which ranks fifth, as there are a host of competitors who have a shot at capturing the Section VI individual titles in either the stand-and-shoot or 3-position competitions during the annual championship meet Feb. 18 at Alden Middle School.
Those four Bulldogs aren't the only ones who excel in the classroom and at nailing targets with a 10-point bull's-eye tinier than a period at the end of a sentence from 33-feet away.
Sixteen of Clarence's 26 shooters have classroom averages of 90 percent or better, according to coach Bob Neubauer. Like Alden, a number of those shooters are among the best on the Red Devils. Junior Matthew Kirk ranks fourth in the section with a 288 high score.
Kirk's sister Alexis, a freshman, also excels on the range and in school. Senior Jessica Mogavero, who is one step away from being accepted into the Naval Academy, averages 282 per competition.
"The smart kids have a tendency to gravitate toward our sport," Neubauer said. "You have to be very diligent and patient. The smart kids are the ones who can stick to their work and jobs and that translates nicely into our sport."
"It takes a lot of hard work and concentration to be that much in control of your muscle movements so that you can be as successful as you can in this sport," Kenmore coach Kristina Brown said.
There are some shooters in this sport who may not score as well in the classroom as they do on the range. More often than not, though, they don't stick it out.
"They drop out because it gets boring and just don't see the point of doing the same thing over and over again to get better," he said.
Brown said that while all of the shooters on her Kenmore team have an average above 80 in school, those who have an easier time getting good grades help out those who have to work a little harder in the classroom. It helped the team earn scholar-athlete recognition last year.
"We have a great group of kids who have a common goal and train hard to be the best they can be," Brown said. "It's exciting to see them use that teamwork and be so tight knit. … It's a testament to how much they care about each other."
She's also pleasantly surprised her team has a 9-3 mark at this point considering it is very young. Kenmore has just one senior and two shooters with three years of experience (senior Kris Aleksandrov and junior Holly Kaiser). Second-year shooter Chris Donn has the second-best score in standing air-rifle competition at 291. Devon Eleey, a junior, is another good shooter who happens to be in the running for valedictorian.
"I think it's about their personalities," Brown said. "It's exciting to see we attract such high performing athletes and students."
"If you're a smart kid you're always trying to do better and you see that in them," Borkowski said.