Wednesday | November 22, 2017
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BIIF air riflery championships: For Aniol, ‘something new’ turns into true gold

Kamehameha junior Devez Aniol’s summer camp on Kauai helped sharpen his aim and made his teammates better, too, in air riflery, which has quickly become a co-favorite as his sport of choice.

He grew up playing baseball and being on the diamond is in his blood. His first cousin is Chay Toson, a 2014 Kamehameha graduate, now at Southwestern College, an NAIA school in Kansas.

But make room baseball because Aniol is the BIIF’s top shooter after claiming the individual title on Saturday at Waiakea’s gym, where he put pressure in an ice cooler and pulled away down the stretch.

“I played baseball, basketball and did a couple years of track,” he said. “I started air riflery as a freshman. I thought it would be a good experience. Air riflery is not a well-known sport. I thought I’d try something different. It’s evened out with baseball now.”

Behind his steady aim and focus, Aniol shot a 627.2, outpacing Waiakea’s Skylar Soultz (613.9) and Hilo’s Shayden Kang (613.1). Aniol, who entered as the top seed, caught fire in the final round.

Soultz gave him a good run, trailing by five points after the prone, standing, and kneeling qualifying round. He’s the brother of Tre Soultz, who won the BIIF title in 2015 for Waiakea.

After the top eight shooters advanced, Aniol was at his best in the 10-shot standing position, where estimated scores were held up. That only added to the tension as the crowd cheered, and shooters stared straight ahead, unaware who scored a 10 or a 6 or something in between.

It’s no wonder that shooters often point to focus as the biggest key. And it’s so inviting to lose focus. The championship was roughly three hours long with a running clock for each shooting session.

Air riflery isn’t horseshoes either. Close doesn’t really help even if it counts. Miss by less than a centimeter, and that could be the difference between first and third place.

The final standing-position period resembles a firing line squad, and the only thing eliminated are contenders for the title. It’s also a rhythmic sound of intermittent bursts of low-volume gunfire. And all the shooters look pretty much the same.

But Aniol stands out in a few ways, including his big-picture thinking.

“It was a good experience, and I’m pretty excited at being one of three Kamehameha shooters to win the title,” he said referring to Logan Aruga (2014) and Kealapua Bernabe (2013).

Then at the end of a very long night, Kamehameha senior Iceley Andaya captured the girls title, a double scoop of achievement under coach Tracy Aruga, the father of Logan.

“The key for me is focus,” Aniol said. “When I’m focused, it tends to make me calm and shoot better.

“This past summer I went to a clinic on Kauai run by Paul Davis (a former Junior Olympic shooting camp instructor). He helped me and three other teammates with positioning, and we were able to help the new shooters and freshmen.”

Aniol’s sports role model is Jackie Robinson, the Hall of Famer who broke the color barrier in 1947.

“He went through a lot of hard stuff and pushed through and persevered,” Aniol said. “Eventually, he became one of the greatest.”

For inspiration, he can look at his parents Charlie Aniol, who catches the bus to work at Hilton Waikoloa, and his mom Deseri Toson, who works at Kamehameha. His dad’s nickname is Chavez, and the combination of his parents’ names led to his cool-sounding first name.

“My parents have told me that in order to get what you want you have to work hard,” Aniol said. “It’s not comfortable, and you’ll go through hard times. But I try to work hard at everything I do, in school and air riflery.”

As a freshman, he can’t remember his finish at the BIIF championships. Last year at BIIFs, he had a gun malfunction, so his rise hasn’t been a direct flight to the top.

“It’s the amount of training and hard work, but it’s not just myself but my team helped me to get better as well,” said Aniol, who’s working on his eighth-grade brother Chaz to join air riflery next year.

Aniol, who plans to study auto engineering in college, also grew up with an air soft gun. He used to shoot at soda cans in his back yard. Little did he know that was a good experience and early training for his road to becoming a BIIF champion.

“I would hit cans and miss a lot, too,” he said, his humility a constant shadow.

Last year at the HHSAA championships, Kalaheo’s Justin Pascua took the state title with a 641 score. Hawaii Baptist Academy’s Nick Kimata was second with 627 points.

Aniol will likely be in the mix for a state medal. His focus will determine the medal’s color. But one thing is obvious, he’s right on target with his co-favorite sport.


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