Grace Taschuk wears her neon yellow visor, filled with Olympians’ signatures, whenever and wherever she competes at a shooting range.
The recent Anoka graduate recently made the National Junior Team for competitive rifle shooting, a potential step toward becoming an Olympian. She shot a score of 590 and 101.8 in the finals to qualify.
“I set this as a goal a long time ago because I’ve been really motivated in rifle (shooting), but to be completely honest, it didn’t feel like I thought it was going to feel,” Taschuk said. “The reason why I didn’t feel like so crazy, on top of the world is (because) every match that I go to, I expect myself to perform like I do at that match, and it actually took me this long to reach my own standards. Obviously, I was still very excited though, very happy. But kind of as an athlete, I was satisfied with succeeding in my goals.”
Taschuk started shooting at 10 years old after seeing her older brother, Luke, and sister, Allie, compete in the sport. The younger Taschuk attended their practices as early as age 7. Their coach suggested she give it a try, too.
“What I like about it is that you’re always competing against yourself,” Taschuk said.
She added that she likes how the sport requires discipline, focus and accountability. She said it falls on her to succeed or not.
“It carries on into life and helps you with other things,” Taschuk said.
Taschuk competes individually, and she also competed with a team at the Coon Rapids American Legion. In middle school Taschuk began competing at national meets.
That included competing in Junior Olympics, where she won a silver medal for her age group, awarded to her by the late former Olympian Lones Wigger. Inspired by fellow shooters Dana and Abby Buesseler, of Minnesota, Taschuk got her visor autographed. Her practice continued as she met more former Olympic shooters.
“He was probably the most amazing shooter so far,” Taschuk said.
Taschuk’s awards include many competition awards, but she still treasures her sportsmanship award from the American Legion Championships match in Colorado in 2017.
“I know it’s not based off of scores, but to me, one of the most important things about continuing in any sport is being a good competitor,” Taschuk said.
She said competition involves competing against herself as much as it involves going against others.
“Rifle is really such a mental sport,” she said. “That’s really the most difficult part of the whole thing, even above discipline.”
She looks forward to the challenge of international competition.
“They’re crazy good, like Olympic-score good for the juniors,” Taschuk said. “One thing I’ve noticed the past couple years is that people’s scores are rising every year, and you have to push yourself as an athlete to be even close to their level.”
As a member of the National Junior Team, Taschuk receives training guidance via email and phone calls, connects with the national team coach, receives training from a high-level sports psychologist and can attend clinics. She has to qualify for the international matches. The national team doesn’t gather as a team as other sports require.
Taschuk will also compete in college at Texas Christian University this year, following in the footsteps of Allie, who competed there from 2012 until 2016. TCU has one of the more successful rifle shooting programs in the country, winning the national title this past school year.
“I really hope I can help carry the team there again,” Taschuk said.
She hopes to keep wearing her autograph-covered visor in competition, but she has two more autographs to add before leaving for TCU. They will be from her coach, Pete Durben, and his brother, Dan. Pete Durben competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games, and Dan competed in the 1988 games. The younger Durben also coached the National Junior Team.
“They know a bunch of Olympians and shot with a bunch of Olympians and all that fun stuff,” Taschuk said.
Taschuk credits her success to Pete Durben, who coached Taschuk individually for practices and competitions for the past six years. She occasionally shot electronic targets, which she didn’t have at home.
“I don’t think I would be here if it was not for my coach,” Taschuk said. “Pete, he has been a role model for me not only in rifle but just overall.”