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Anthony McCollum’s journey from rural Missouri to pistol All-American at Ohio State

Anthony McCollum competes in all three variations of competitive shooting: air, standard and free. Credit: Courtesy Ohio State Athletics

When it comes to the sport of pistol, Ohio State’s Anthony McCollum has always been a goal-setter. Whether it’s a shooting goal for a competition a week away or a career goal set 10 years into the future, McCollum has his eye on his targets.

His father, Bob McCollum, learned this quickly after his then-15-year-old son set the goal of shooting pistol in the Olympics, along with all the necessary competitions and procedures he would have to go through.

“For him to come out and say that, it floored us,” Bob McCollum said. “Thinking back, the way he’s done everything [in pistol], it’s above anything we could’ve expected for him.”

Years later, Anthony McCollum’s heart is still set on making the Olympic team. For the Ohio State junior and first team All-American, being able to compete for the Buckeyes has been an integral part of that dream. Ohio State is the only NCAA school outside of the military academies that considers pistol as a varsity sport, an aspect that was very appealing to McCollum.

However, the perks of being a varsity athlete didn’t shield McCollum from the culture shock he experienced when he stepped on campus. Coming from rural Purdin, Missouri, a town in with less than 200 residents, to a campus with more than 60,000 people was not easy.

Although he is now one of Ohio State’s top shooters, McCollum was essentially home-schooled until he stepped foot on campus. Despite living in a hunting community, he could not find a certified pistol instructor. Even though he had no knowledge of the sport, McCollum’s father became a certified instructor and led the team through the nonprofit, 4-H.

Together, they learned the practices of the sport through reading and by networking at competitions. McCollum also took advantage of living in a rural community and routinely practiced in his own backyard.

McCollum competes in both individual and open, or mixed gender group, trials. He also competes in all three variations of competitive shooting: air, standard and free. Each discipline varies based on the distance from the target and the size of the target.

McCollum has proved himself to be a main contributor to Ohio State’s success, frequently breaking personal records and leading the team in open events. In his inaugural season with the Buckeyes, he helped lead the team to its third consecutive national championship. Since his first season, he has increased his average competition scores by 300 points, becoming a force on the team.

Despite Ohio State ending last season with a fourth-place finish at the national championship in the open-team competitions, the Buckeyes have returned this season with determination, remaining undefeated in the regular season, with McCollum consistently leading the pack.

McCollum doesn’t see his leading scores as something warranting praise.

“I’m just trying to do the best I can in whatever I’m doing, and right now I’m doing this and putting everything I have into it,” McCollum said. “I just try to keep my head down and work on what I need to.”

McCollum’s father is quick to attest to his son’s strong work ethic, saying that watching him progress in the sport has been phenomenal.

“He has grown to the point now where he makes things happen for himself,” McCollum said. “He pushes himself to be the best he can be, whether in shooting, school work or his personal life.”

In the near future, McCollum hopes to bring another national championship to Ohio State.

Looking a bit further ahead, he continues to work toward his goal of competing in the Olympics and still believes what he’s learning at Ohio State will get him there.

“I feel like Ohio State is giving me a good path to that and so I’m going to keep working and take everything I’ve learned here and run with it,” McCollum said. “And absolutely keep shooting and hopefully make it to the Olympics someday.”

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