Mountain View senior has Olympics in sights

2014-04-12T00:00:00Z Mountain View senior has Olympics in sightsBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

When he was a kid, all he wanted for Christmas was a BB gun.

Year after year, his mother said no.

She made him hold off because, she said, she did not want her little boy having a gun.

He could shoot his eye out, or something.

Finally, one Christmas morning, he saw what he wanted sitting under the tree.

It was a BB gun, a gift from his grandfather.

His eyes lit up. He pushed everything else aside, grabbed it and unwrapped it.

“It was the only gift he wanted to open,” said his mother.

He didn’t want to do anything else, open any more gifts. He wanted to go outside and shoot. Right now, this second.

Sound familiar? Like, the plot of “A Christmas Story”?

Sure it does, but this isn’t about Ralphie Parker. That was Luis Gloria — but most people call him Taz.

He was 6 years old when his grandfather gave him that BB gun, and 9 years old when he realized he wanted to shoot competitively.

Ten years later, Gloria, 19, is a talented skeet shooter, fighting for a chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The BB gun has been replaced with a shotgun.

On Sunday and Monday, Gloria will compete in the ISSF World Cup at the Tucson Trap & Skeet Club.

“It’s great being able to get done after a long day of shooting,” Gloria said, “and actually get to go to sleep on my own bed.”

Gloria is a senior at Mountain View High School, but he doesn’t physically go to school there. Instead, he takes online classes while he practices and travels for competitions, while working full time at Cracker Barrel. He’s still on tap to graduate this year, and plans to attend Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., in the fall.

In the meantime, though, he’s aiming high. Last year, he medaled in almost every national event he competed in, and at the Junior World Championships in Lima, Peru, he won a bronze medal in the team event.

But, he wants more. He wants to go to Rio.

“When I do something, I get hungry and I want to do it again,” Gloria said. “It would be a dream come true.”

And that all goes back to that first BB gun.

“My friends would want to play after school, and I’d tell them ‘oh no, I can’t. I’m grounded,’ ” he said. “But really, I was just going home so I could go in my backyard and shoot my BB gun.”

He was small — he still is, at 5 feet 3 — and the gun was essentially bigger than him.

So, he would have to stick the gun under his arm and point at the target with his hand, which is where he developed his hand-eye coordination.

No, he wouldn’t walk outside, shoot at a street sign, only to have the BB ricochet and knock his glasses off.

So, he wasn’t quite Tucson’s Ralphie Parker.

His nickname is Taz after the rambunctious “Looney Tunes” character, but he’s certainly not wild. At least, not when he’s out on the range, shooting at those clay targets with a shotgun.

“That’s something that was stressed from Day 1 was safety,” said Trish Carlisle, his mother. “He was never allowed to touch the gun without his grandfather present.”

The nickname came because, while pregnant with Taz, her stomach started shaking and jumping as she set up the nursery with Gloria’s godmother.

“We said ‘that’s it,’ ” Carlisle said, “we’ll call him Taz. That’s what he became from then on.”

That, and now a grown-up Ralphie Parker … with a shotgun.

“The satisfaction of the targets breaking, the smell of the gun powder in the air, the atmosphere, the people. It’s so rewarding,” Gloria said. “It’s absolutely breathtaking.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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