Usually, it’s the dad who gets the daughter involved. In 19-year-old Alanna’s Neidigh’s case, it was her mom who took the first steps. Her mom bought a handgun for self-protection and wanted to ensure Alanna understood firearm safety. She brought Alanna to a dump and had her shoot a .22 LR rifle. It was a bit big for 10-year-old Alanna, but she loved it. Shooting has since further tied mother and daughter together.
Besides her mom, Alanna has also always had her grandfather in her corner as her supporter and coach. One of her favorite memories is competing in the air rifle junior camp at Camp Perry and accidentally moving her sights the wrong way. She went from shooting incredibly well to a miss from this mistake, taking her down in the rankings. She remembers, “When I got off the line I was in tears and my pap was right there behind me waiting because he saw the whole thing go down. He was always my Number 1 supporter and I really miss having him there for my competitions when he was there it made things less serious and always knew how to make me and the rest of the team laugh.”
Shooting has since become a part of Alanna’s identity, offering her life lessons no other sports she tried could. “Besides the basics of how to safely handle a firearm, it taught me that even though society may deem this sport as masculine, it isn’t. It really taught me that at the end of the day I can do what the guys do … and most of the time even do a bit better than them. It also has taught me that teamwork and good sportsmanship can go a long way.” She values the community and how willing everyone is to help one another, to offer equipment to use or helpful tips. It also has afforded her the opportunity to travel and see new places, making lifelong friends in the process.
Shortly after shooting for the first time with her mom, Alanna joined the Irwin Sportsmen’s Association’s Post 228 Junior Rifle Team, where she shot until age 17. She now competes in smallbore and air rifle at Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsmen’s Club with a .22 LR Anschutz rifle and a Feinwerkbau air rifle. Last year, as a senior in high school, Alanna placed 6th in the Pittsburgh and Suburban Rifle League with a 295.43 average. She also placed High Woman and High Junior in the league.
The year 2021 also brought her an 8th junior National placement in the NRA Junior 4P sectional with a score of 396-27x. Also high on Alanna’s list of accomplishments is winning the 2021 Robert K. Moore 100-shot offhand match with a 979 out of a possible 1000. This match consisted of 10 targets from the standing position, the hardest position to shoot. This year, Alanna fired her first 300, a completely clean match on an A-17 50 ft. smallbore target (five shots prone, five shots sitting, 10 shots kneeling, 10 shots standing).
At this stage in her shooting career, Alanna has her own equipment, including a custom-made shooting suit from Capapie. She emphasizes that though she uses some high-end equipment, you do not need a custom suit to get started in shooting. Another must-have for Alanna is a visor for blocking light on the range, which allows her to better see her sights. In addition to basic smallbore equipment, Alanna sets out a ruler on the floor when she shoots offhand to ensure that her feet are the same distance apart each time. She also makes notes of her scores and performance in a shooting diary.
If you spend enough time around shooters, you’ll discover each has some little quirk or funny thing they do. Alanna notes that “many shooters often believe in lucky charms and superstitions.” She has a good-luck troll doll she brings along with her to the range. Currently he’s on loan to another shooter, lending his luck. Alanna also listens to the same song before every practice and match — “Fireflies” by Owl City.
Alanna is currently a first-year student majoring in psychology at the University of North Georgia. She is considering a minor in criminal justice or public relations and decided to take her first year to focus on academics so she isn’t shooting for a collegiate team … yet.
Though it may seem everything came easily for Alanna, it was not without hard work and obstacles. She encourages other shooters not to get discouraged. “That was the hardest thing for me,” she said. “I would get made fun of for doing a ‘boy’ sport, and I had points where I hit plateaus and could not figure out how to keep going up. My sophomore year I told my mom I was done, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. Thankfully with the right coaching, and support from friends and family, I got right back in the game and kept going. So as clichéd as it sounds: Don’t give up the good fight, keep fighting and in the end, it will all be worth it.”
Sadly, Alanna's beloved grandfather, mentor and coach passed away this year, but Alanna is motivated to shoot even better to honor his memory. “I really hope to one day make it to the Olympics, it was a goal of mine when I was younger and slowly faded to the back of my mind but this year, I lost my grandfather who was my rifle coach and it really made me want to make him proud, so hopefully one day I can make it to the podium for him.”