Paducah’s Noelle Meals keeps her eye on the target as a precision rifle shooter.
The sport requires time and effort, but Meals’ work has led her to repeatedly qualify for the National Junior Olympic Championships in her young life, resulting in a 2015 bronze medal for her air rifle category, and USA Shooting Kentucky titles in both air rifle and smallbore. It’ll also serve her well as a student-athlete at Murray State University, where she plans to study biology on a pre-medicine track.
“I like that it’s very disciplined and that it’s not a team,” Meals said. “You’re the one that’s shooting. You’re the one that’s in control and so, for me, it can be like a stress relief knowing that I’m in control. There’s a lot of great people in this sport that are my closest friends. I just really enjoy the people that are in it and I just have fun with it.”
It’s taught her to “not beat yourself up” so much, to be more forgiving.
The 18-year-old McCracken County High School senior got into shooting in fifth grade, but later became more serious about it in seventh grade. That’s when she first went to Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, where she earned a bronze medal. She later competed in ninth grade, 10th grade and 11th grade. She also plans to compete this year, in April.
“I’ve learned that your mental game is important,” she said, regarding her Junior Olympic experiences. “And that you have to mentally be there and you can prepare physically as much as you want, but you have to have like the confidence in yourself, in order to be successful.”
Meals accepted an athletic scholarship to shoot for the Racers’ storied rifle program, which is an exciting opportunity for Meals. She’s not sure what the future holds for her precision shooting career after Murray State, due to her medical school aspirations, but she does want to stay in it, perhaps through coaching.
“I felt relieved because it was stressful picking a school and I’ve known Coach (Alan) Lollar for many years, so I just felt like I was adopted into this new family and I’m excited about it,” Meals said. “I know all the team members. I know them well, so we’re all friends and it’s just like our own little rifle family.”
Meals, daughter of Lee and Mike Meals of Paducah, is the Paducah Bank Teen of the Week.
Each Monday and Tuesday, The Sun profiles area high school seniors chosen from a pool of nominees for Teen of the Week consideration. Around the end of the school year, a selection committee will choose one student as Teen of the Year, which carries a $5,000 scholarship. Another student will receive an Inspiration Award and a $1,000 scholarship.
Meals has earned a 4.33 cumulative weighted GPA and 4.0 unweighted GPA at McCracken County High School. She received a 28 composite ACT score and participates in the school’s German National Honor Society. Meals has also participated in other school clubs and organizations, such as HOSA and World Language Club.
Her undergraduate plans are set at this point, but Meals is already thinking about taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and hopes to attend medical school. She’s interested in the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville.
“There’s a lot of physicians in my family, so I’ve grown up in that kind of environment and then I just find the body — like I find health interesting, like helping people,” she said.
By Kelly Farrell