Muscatine American Legion hosts Ray Dietrich Invitational

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–An avid marksman and a beloved teacher, Ray Dietrich led the Muscatine American Legion’s Junior Shooting Club for years, introducing many children to the sport of air riffle shooting and getting them excited about it. Jan. 14, the Muscatine American Legion hosted the Ray Dietrich Invitational, the new name for the shooting contest they have held for approximately the last seven years. “He’s the one who started it years ago and we wanted to make sure it happened,” Brian Little, one of the organizers of the event, said. The invitational gave young air rifle shooters the opportunity to practice and have some friendly competition ahead of the state and possibly national competitions they will attend this season.

Bright and early on Jan. 14, 19 competitors from the Muscatine American Legion, Lone Tree American Legion, and Swisher American Legion came together to compete. With competitors ranging in age form eight to 18, the invitational allowed air rifle shooters of all ages to demonstrate their skills. No matter their age though, contestants demonstrated their skills the same three positions, prone, standing, and kneeling. Overall, Muscatine’s two Junior Shooting Club members did exceptionally. Kiara Hallett earned the highest score with 524 points and Ella Evans came in second with 498 points.

As the junior shooting season starts, the Muscatine American Legion’s Junior Shooting Club will attend contests similar to the Ray Dietrich Invitational in both Lone Tree and Swisher. They will then go on to compete in several state shoots, including the Junior Olympics March 4, the Iowa State Rifle and Pistol Association March 11, and the American Legion State Tournament. Though the Ray Dietrich Invitational grants bragging rights only to the people who win it, the state competitions often provide scholarships to help youth pay for their post secondary education as well as opportunities to move onto national competitions.

Kiara Hallett and Ella Evans at the Ray Dietrich Invitational Jan. 19. Photo by Margaret Hurlbert.

Always a popular event, organizers felt glad that they could rename this longstanding event to honor one of the driving forces behind the Muscatine American Legion Junior Shooting Club. They also felt pleased they could bring young air rifle shooters together again for a fun day of putting their skills to the test. Mike Blanchard, one of the club’s instructors, shared he always likes to see, “just the enjoyment of the kids, how disciplined they can be, and how they concentrate.”

With the Muscatine American Legion’s Junior Shooting Club’s two current members getting ready to graduate and pursue higher education, the club hopes to attract younger members. Any child age 10 and up may join the club, and any child age 12 and up may travel with the team and compete at invitationals and other contests. New members need not have anything other than an interest in air rifle shooting when they start. “They don’t have to have any equipment–we have it all in house,” Blanchard assured. The club currently meets Tuesday evenings at the Muscatine American Legion (110 South Houser Street in Muscatine) from 6:30 to about 8 p.m. Organizers encourage parents to stay and watch their children practice and for younger siblings to watch as well and maybe develop an interest in air riffle shooting too.

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