A year and a half ago, Liz Bark sat in on a gun safety class only because her older brother, Andrew, wanted experience handling firearms.
It was the summer of 2010 and she had no intention of ever picking up a rifle.
Now the 13-year-old Catonsville resident can't imagine letting it go.
Liz said she "was just there for the ride" and had rejected instructor Chuck Sayre's multiple offers to fire a rifle in the first 90 minutes of the class.
"I wasn't much a fan of guns and big bangs," said the Arbutus Middle School eighth-grader.
She was there with Andrew, was taking the class as he looked forward to a career in the Air Force. Now 17, he'll enlist in the Air Force after graduating from Catonsville High School in June.
After the other students took turns firing rifles, Liz finally relented and fired a shot. She has hardly missed since.
"It's been history since then," said Sayre, 51, a Columbia resident. "Right off the bat, the minute we put the rifle in her hands, she was comfortable with it."
Liz earned one of four spots on the Maryland State Junior Shooting Team. She will compete for the national championship and a spot on the national team at the NRA National Junior Air Gun Championships in Anniston, Ala. June 26-28.
"All of my shooters are good shooters," said Sayre, of the 22 members of his Arlington Rifle and Pistol Club Team, who range in age from 8 to 53. "She's one of my top shooters."
Sayre said Bark, the youngest member on the Maryland team, is the first member of the Arlington club team to qualify for the nationals in air rifle.
In addition to firing air rifles, which use compressed air instead of gunpowder to propel bullets, Liz also shoots .22 caliber rifles, often termed small bore rifles.
No matter whether in practice or competition, earning a score of 600, a perfect score, drives the competitive spirit Liz never got to exercise when she played rec league soccer and baseball.
During the most recent air rifle season, which runs from September to the end of April, Liz said she has had three perfect marks, all in practice.
"I haven't quite hit it in competition yet, but I will," she said.
"It feels really good," she said of hitting the center of her target. "That just means I'm closer to a perfect score."
Liz's mother, Mary Claire Bark, a life-long Catonsville resident, said her daughter averages a score of 520 in competition and has hit as high as 575 in practice.
"When it comes down to competition, she's got it down," said Mary Claire Bark, who has shot before but didn't find nearly as enjoyable as her daughter. "She handles the pressure very well."
Her daughter is aiming for a more modest goal than perfection in the June event. She said she wants to finish in the top 30 from among the 200 shooters in various age groups.
"I've never been there before, so it's probably a whole new level of competition," she said.