TOP GUN: Parker Haydin has his sights on Olympic gold and a career as a Naval aviator. 

Granbury senior Parker Haydin didn’t know air rifle shooting was an Olympic sport four years ago. Haydin’s come a long way since then, and with the help of the U.S. Naval Academy, he’s hoping to stand on an Olympic podium one day.

“In 2018, I had no idea that air rifle shooting was a sport or that you could win an Olympic medal for it,” Haydin said. “Once I got involved with it, I just fell in love with the sport.”

Haydin’s also hooked on flying and has 30 hours of flight time toward a private pilot license with time behind the controls of both a Cherokee Warrior and a Cessna.

Flying a plane and shooting kind of run hand-in-hand in regard to preparation and mental focus. It’s part of what helped turn Haydin into Granbury’s top marksman this season.

Several colleges with shooting programs were possible landing places, but the future aviator had his heart set on either the Air Force or Naval academies because of the flight programs.

Haydin will be used to the military discipline needed at the Naval Academy after going through the Granbury Marine Corps JROTC program. He currently serves as the Alpha Company executive officer and was recently promoted to cadet second lieutenant.

With several college choices at hand, the Navy won out due to effort.

“Obviously, either service is a good choice when it comes to flight programs, but the Navy seemed like they really wanted to me,” Haydin said. “They put in the effort to get me onto their team.”

Haydin knows about putting in the effort and that making changes can make him a better shooter. Once a rapid-fire shooter, he’s changed pace under his coach, retired Lt. Col. Scott Casey, whose first instructions were to “slow down.”

“I was a fast shooter—really fast—I would have 40 minutes left on the clock after shooting a course,” Haydin said. “Now I have 5-10 minutes left. The rhythm came from here. Shooting fast wasn’t good.”

Becoming mentally strong and having the ability to overcome a lousy shot are also hurdles for Haydin.

“I focus on my process – for what can I do to get into that good hold – that good position,” Haydin said. “Once I find it, I think about the shot and block everything else out. Focusing on something that makes me happy or makes me calm and then into the zone.”

Haydin hopes the instruction he gets will lead to time piloting aircraft while at the Naval Academy, and he doesn’t care what kind of aircraft as long as he gets to fly.

Haydin is the son of Tracy and Robert Haydin of Granbury. | 817-573-7066 ext. 231 | 817-573-7066 ext. 231