Rosemary Kramer, a senior at Georgia Southern University majoring in biology, has taken a year off from academics to pursue her dream — representing the U.S. on its Olympic shooting team.
Kramer is a prodigy at air rifle. She hunted growing up, and her parents, who have done some shooting as well, taught her from a very young age to be safe with guns.
She first became involved in shooting competitively at her high school, Upson-Lee High. The team at Upson-Lee was through the ROTC program, which hosted a tryout. She “shot pretty well,” she said, and she ended up shooting on the team for four years.
Kramer decided she wanted to shoot in college and had chosen Columbus State University. But the day before she was to sign her contract with them, the new president of the university canceled the rifle program. Without a plan B, Kramer was devastated.
“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to shoot in college,” she said.
But the coach who had previously worked with the team at Columbus State pointed out to her that there were still open spots at Georgia Southern — and she made the team.
While a freshman at GSU, Kramer was the team’s leading performing in both smallbore and air rifle, and competed in all nine of the team’s matches. She finished first in smallbore in her collegiate debut at Southeastern Air Rifle Conference (SEARC) 2, posting an impressive 546 points. She also placed first in air rifle with a then-career high 580 points. She led the Eagles as the third highest aggregate scorer with 1,128 points at SEARC 4, finishing eighth in air rifle with 570 points and first in smallbore with 558 points, which stood third in school history. She also set the aggregate and smallbore school records at North Georgia with a 1,152 overall score and a 573 smallbore mark. Kramer also placed sixth in air rifle at the SEARC championships with 578 points.
During her sophomore year, Kramer was a member of Georgia Southern’s Southern Conference (SoCon) air rifle championship squad, and a first team All-SoCon selection to the air rifle squad. She averaged 553.889 in smallbore, 574.22 in air rifle, and 1,128.111 in aggregate. Kramer placed 19th in air rifle (568) and 15th (551) in smallbore at the SoCon championships, and placed first overall in the season opener at The Citadel in October 2016.
Kramer competed in all 13 events during her junior year, and was a first team all-conference selection after finishing second in air rifle at the SoCon meet. She was named the SoCon Air Rifle Athlete of the Year. Kramer averaged 560.692 in smallbore, 580.385 in air rifle, and 1,141.077 in aggregate, and placed first in the smallbore meets in Charleston, South Carolina and in Statesboro that year, as well as first in air rifle events in Dahlonega, Georgia, Charleston and Statesboro. She also placed 21st in smallbore and seventh in air rifle at the SoCon championships.
Kramer’s senior year has been a banner one thus far. She was named first team All-American in air rifle, as selected by the National Rifle Association. She placed third at the NCAA Air Rifle Championships in West Virginia, and tied the event’s air rifle record with a 599 in the preliminary round. She went on to become the SoCon Air Rifle champion, and was a first team All-SoCon selection in both smallbore and air rifle. In October 2018, Kramer shot a school and SoCon record 598 in air rifle.
Kramer has competed in all 12 matches during her senior year, and she matched that 598 in March at the SoCon championships. She averaged a school record 594.154 in air rifle, and placed first in 10 air rifle meets and first overall in five matches. She has been named SoCon Air Rifle Shooter of the Month three times, and was selected to compete in the World University Games in Naples, Italy.
Kramer is the first NCAA medalist and All-American in Georgia Southern history, and the first GSU rifle student-athlete to qualify for NCAAs in the six-year history of the program. She holds the school records for the air rifle and aggregate, and holds each of the top 10 all-time highest air rifle scores in school history, as well as seven of the top 10 all-time highest aggregate scores in school history. Her 581.545 average in air rifle is a school record, and she’s been named a Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Scholastic All-American.
Georgia Southern head rifle coach Sandra Worman says that it may look like Kramer just woke up one day and started getting those top scores, but it was a long time coming.
“In reality, it was many years of working towards improvement. The final tools she needed to really soar were mental management, positive self-talk and performance management through her shooter’s journal. Once she dialed in to those assets, she confidently found her footing in the stratosphere,” Woman said.
Kramer’s skills have also taken her outside of collegiate competition. In May, Kramer competed in the Munich World Cup in Munich, Germany. The competition gave her the opportunity to get an international score so that she could go to the Olympic trials. She was one of 11 women to do so.
“It was awesome,” she said of her first time leaving the United States. Kramer had the opportunity to stay with athletes who had competed previously in the Olympics, and talk with them about their experiences during the competition, as well as their training leading up to it. She says they gave her tips about training and “stuff that will help me stay sane as I go through this,” she said, laughing.
Kramer said she first began thinking about the Olympics after being encouraged by Worman.
“She was really inspiring, and she made me realize what I was capable of, and helped me to reach those goals that I set for myself,” she said.
All of those competitions have led to Kramer being named to the USA National Development Team, which provides her with some funding. She says she didn’t know enough about the process to get on the Olympic team, and she didn’t do well at nationals, so she didn’t actually make the team. But she was named to the development team, which is for people who don’t do well at nationals but are named to the team by its coaches.
Kramer says that if an athlete does well at qualification competitions so that he or she can go to an international competition, that athlete can get National Qualifying Scores (NQS). Once an athlete gets his or her NQS, the focus switches to training, which is where she is now. Kramer is training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She will compete in the Olympic trials in December and February, and hopes to compete in Tokyo in the 2020 Olympics.
Worman says she likes Kramer’s chances in the Olympics.
“It’s like her to rise to the occasion, and she eats pressure for breakfast,” she said, pointing to Kramer’s opportunities to gain international experience. “She’s also had the chance to experiment with different ways and methods of training, and even different rifles. Rotating out of a college program and onto the national team is a very different training environment than she’s had for the past four years.”
In June, Kramer competed in the USA Shooting Nationals in Fort Benning, and went to Naples straight from there. She calls her experience in Italy, “interesting.”
“All of the shooting was in an area that was very third world country,” she said. “Naples was more neutral.” Kramer was able to stay five extra days and do some sightseeing. “It was neat for my second experience out of the country.”
As she awaits her Olympic trial, Kramer is laser-focused on her training. Currently, she is practicing at least six days a week. She also spends a lot of time working out in the gym, focusing on balance training.
“I do a lot of mental training as well, such as meditation and mindfulness, so that I can keep that control over my mind. The important part about shooting is that you’re consistent. If you feel like a shot isn’t going to go right, you can’t take it. That’s something that I have to train myself for. If something is not going to go right, I have to have the self-control not to take the shot,” she said.
Kramer says the thing she enjoys most about shooting is that it requires a lot of patience and concentration.
“It’s a skill sport, and I really enjoy stuff like that,” she said. “I’m really good at pushing myself to be my best at any occasion. So when I really want to do something, I’m good at rising to the occasion and doing it.”
She believes that shooting has increased her confidence and decision-making abilities.
“I think it’s made me a more confident person. I know what I’m capable of, and I know what I enjoy doing, and what I’m good at. Knowing that helps me to make decisions in life more easily. It’s given me a lot of patience and perseverance, and a work ethic that I’m really proud of,” she said.
As for what she has already accomplished as a part of Georgia Southern’s team, Kramer is just happy to bring attention to the program and to her university.
“I’m just really glad that I’ve set a goal for other athletes to try and reach. I think it will help the program excel in the future. I’m hoping that I can kind of be that kick-start for the program and get it the attention it needs from the rifle community as well as getting new athletes wanting to compete there because they can see that it pays off,” she said.
Worman says Kramer brought a lot to the table as part of GSU’s team, and “did her job” at the university.
“She picked up what we laid down for her, in terms of evolving as a student, an athlete and a person,” the coach said. “I cannot emphasize enough how much Georgia Southern played a part in her success. Once she started to excel and get herself places, they more than met her halfway and made sure she could continue the climb. No one does anything alone, and I’m incredibly proud of how Rose did her part and then how GS made sure her continued success was theirs.”
Kramer plans to return to Georgia Southern next year and complete her degree. If she can obtain a job with her biology degree, she says that’s fine. But if not, she plans to go to Montana and work on a master’s degree in raptor biology, and pursue her passion for birds. She wants to help increase the populations of hawks, eagles and pelicans nationwide, and has been interested in birds since she was very young. Her choice of bedtime story back then was to hand her mom “A Field Guide to Birds,” she says, laughing. Kramer is also an accomplished artist, and draws and paints birds, which she sells.
Some may call Kramer a role model — and she’s OK with that.
“It’s really inspiring, and it makes me want to be a better person. I’ve always wanted to be a role model. I remember looking up to certain people, the way that they changed my life. It means I have to be a little more careful about what I do, but I’m OK with that. I like to think that maybe I can change people’s lives for the better by being a good role model for them,” she said.