Redshirt freshman Travis Stockton has always had high expectations for himself entering into D1 rifle competition. Spending his first year at the Air Force Academy, Stockton transferred to NC State for a change of atmosphere and leadership.
Stockton consistently made impressive scores throughout the season, providing the top scores of the Pack for multiple matches. He provides a unique set of skills and wisdom coming from the Air Force Academy rifle team, a well respected and solid group, but has no regrets about coming to NC State.
“I love it here,” Stockton said. “The people here are very nice, everyone is courteous toward each other… The professors here really care about their students and give you everything you need to become a better student.”
The Good: Murray State
Stockton had some impressive numbers all season, but his best day was the best score for the Pack all season. Stockton scored an 1180 aggregate at Murray State, with a 596 on air rifle and a 584 on small bore. These would stand as his season highs, and it was all due to confidence.
“The practice leading up to that match, everything was feeling good, clicking right and all pistons were firing,” Stockton said. “When we got to Murray State, I felt more confident than I had before in my ability to handle a match.”
His next highest aggregate score was an 1170, 10 points lower than his impressive match at Murray State. The Pack was facing Nebraska, unfortunately losing the match despite Stockton’s score. However, not all matches are the best, even for an athlete like Stockton.
The Bad: NCAA Qualifier
Perhaps one of the most important matches for a rifle athlete, the NCAA Qualifier contains half the weight of deciding whether the athlete and/or the team gets to participate in the NCAA Championships. At this point, NC State as a team was eliminated from qualifying for the championship, but individuals still had a shot at making it, including Stockton.
Stockton shot a 578 on small bore and a 583 on air rifle for an aggregate score of 1161. That air rifle score was his lowest of the season and one he was not proud of.
“It was a tough day,” Stockton said. “I really got inside my head that match… When I got there, I had this huge expectation for myself. There is such a thing as pushing hard for something, but there is also such a thing as pushing too hard.”
Stockton said most of the sport is mental and has to do with your attitude during a match. With such high praise from his coaches, team and observers across the country, Stockton said he had a lot to live up to.
“It’s very motivating, to say the least,” Stockton said. “[Head coach Emily Holsopple] was happy to have me here after I transferred, and I feel like I owe everything to her. Her coaching, her guidance, everything I’ve done between the Air Force and now...I want to prove her right.”
After the qualifiers, Stockton and the Pack traveled to Kentucky the next week for the GARC Championships, where Stockton posted a much better aggregate score of 1170, his second highest score of the season. This impressive match included a 578 on small bore, same as the NCAA Qualifier, but a 592 on air rifle.
His confidence and attitude to recover allowed him to score the highest air rifle and aggregate score for the Wolfpack that day. NC State placed ninth in the GARC Championships.
20% physical, 80% mental
Rifle is similar to wrestling, track and field and other sports where it is purely up to the individual to do their best, while still contributing to a team result. Stockton said it is important to have a clear mind because, in the moment of competition, it’s all about focus.
“You’re really competing against yourself,” Stockton said. “When you’re taking those shots, it’s just you...if you have anything negative in your mind, you’re just going to crash and burn… You have to trust yourself.”
Leading a young team
The NC State rifle team is all freshman and sophomores, no upperclassman at all, but Stockton provides experience to the young athletes. The Air Force Academy had been national champs with Stockton on the team, and he has a lot of experience to give to the Pack.
He said he hopes to help build team chemistry, even in such an individual type of sport. However, things have been rather challenging with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Trust is a huge thing in this sport,” Stockton said. “Being able to trust that the person next to me is going to shoot good enough, so I can shoot good with them is a huge thing.”
Stockton boasts an impressive feat: He was a four-time academic all-state student-athlete from his home of Colorado. He said he hopes to continue his academic success and even has some aspirations as to what he wants to study here at NC State.
“I’m a firm believer that you’re a student-athlete because the student comes before the athlete,” Stockton said. “At the end of the day, that degree is the most important thing.”
Stockton said he hopes to major in an international business degree with a minor in German. He said most international rifle matches are held in Germany, and he hopes to continue his athletic career beyond Raleigh.