FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, May 23, 2008) -- Six Soldiers of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit won seven slots on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Shooting Team that will compete at the Olympic Games this summer.

Maj. Michael E. Anti, Sgt. 1st Class Daryl L. Szarenski, Spc. Walton Glenn Eller III, Spc. Jeffrey G. Holguin and Pfc. Vincent C. Hancock each won a spot on the Olympic Team and Sgt. 1st Class Jason A. Parker won two slots. The Soldiers will be competing in Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun events.

The 2008 Olympic Trials for Shotgun were conducted Aug. 8 to 19 in Colorado Springs, Colo., and March 8 to 16 in Kerrville, Texas. During these selection matches, Eller and Holguin each won a slot in Double Trap and Hancock got a slot in Skeet.

International Rifle and Pistol Olympic Selections were held March 1 to 3 in Colorado Springs, Colo., and May 12 to 22 at Fort Benning. Anti was selected for Prone Rifle and Parker won slots in both Air Rifle and Three Position Rifle; Szarenski took a slot in Free Pistol.

Eller beat 13 competitors to make the Olympic Team in Double Trap. Eller, 26, also competed in the 2004 and 2000 Olympics. He joined the Army in September 2006. Holguin, 29, joined the Army in September 2006 along with his friend Eller. Holguin defeated 12 competitors to get on the Double Trap Olympic Team.

In Double Trap, competitors fire their shotguns at two clay targets thrown simultaneously from an underground bunker at speeds up to 50 mph; competitors get one shot per target.

"I had the advantage of having already been a member of two Olympic Teams," Eller said.

"I also had been training with the three best Double Trap shooters in the country. I was very confident but I was completely nervous the entire time. No matter how much you prepare, it is still nerve-wracking while trying out for the Olympic Team," he said.

Hancock joined the Army Reserves in June 2006. As a junior in high school, he went through Basic Training and then returned to finish his senior year. After he graduated, Hancock went to his advanced individual training and then joined the USAMU.

The 19-year-old triumphed over 65 competitors to make the Skeet Olympic Team. In Skeet, competitors fire their shotguns at clay targets thrown from high and low houses at speeds of 55 mph.

"I had an advantage because I was preparing myself for months ahead of time," Hancock said. "I was determined to do the best I could and come out on top. I felt both confident and anxious as I was competing because it was for what I had been dreaming of since I was 12 years old."

Anti, 43, was a 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist as well a 2000 and 1992 Olympian. Anti, who joined the Army in January 1988, is attached to the USAMU through the World Class Athlete Program. The infantry officer outshot 48 competitors to make the Olympic Team in Prone Rifle. Competitors in Prone Rifle lie on their stomachs and shoot .22-caliber rifles at targets 50 meters away. The bull's eye is 10.4 millimeters wide, much smaller than a dime.

Parker, 33, is a 2008, 2004 and 2000 Olympian. He joined the Army in January 1997. Parker defeated 34 competitors to make the Olympic Team in Men's Air Rifle in which competitors shoot lead pellets from .177 caliber guns at targets 10 meters away. The bull's eye is 1/2 millimeter wide, the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Parker also made the Olympic Team in Men's Three-Position Rifle in which competitors shoot the same rifles at the same targets as in Prone Rifle, except they shoot in three positions - standing, kneeling and prone.

Szarenski, 40, also competed in the 2004 and 2000 Olympics in Free Pistol. In Free Pistol, competitors shoot .22-caliber pistols from 50 meters away at bull's eye targets with an approximate 50-mm center.

Szarenski joined the Army in October 1991. After three days and 200 shots of grueling competition, it came down to the last shot, but he prevailed to beat 25 competitors and make the Olympic Team. Going into the last two shots, John Zurek was on the verge of upsetting Szarenski. However, Zurek scored 7.8 on his ninth shot in the 10-shot finals while Szarenski finished with 10.7 out of a possible 10.9 on his last shot, leaving Szarenski 1.4 points ahead of Zurek.

The Soldier-athletes are now preparing for their competitions at the upcoming Olympic Games, which will take place in Beijing, China, Aug. 8 to 17.

(Paula J. Randall works for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, Accessions Support Brigade)