Bemidji's Evan Langerak chasing Olympic dream as he signs with Ohio State

Feb. 27—BEMIDJI — Evan Langerak wants to go to the Olympics.

So do many people. But luckily for the Bemidji High School senior, he's carved out a more promising path than most. Langerak started out along that journey by winning the gold medal in the men's sport pistol event at the Junior Olympic national championships on April 26, 2023 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

That got the attention of those who determine the ones that compete in pistol for the United States at the Olympics. Now, Langerak has signed with Ohio State to compete for the Buckeyes' pistol team and sharpen his skills for a potential future at an upcoming summer Games.

"After I won the gold medal in Colorado, it put me on the radar to start working my way up to the Olympics," Langerak said. "And by going to some different spots and shooting at ranked matches, I can start earning points that go toward a rank. After reaching a certain score, you get to go on to Olympic qualifiers, and you (can) keep going (from there)."

Langerak found out about the option of competing in college through his former 4-H teammate Cade Haiby, a Blackduck native who was a member of Ohio State's pistol team from 2018-22. Langerak and Haiby both participated in the Beltrami County 4-H shooting sports and wildlife program.

"(Haiby) opened my eyes to the possibility of taking my hobby sport to the next level," Langerak said.

OSU will cover 25% of Langerak's cost of attendance, enabling him to chase his Olympic dream while also getting an education. The money will help in more ways than one. Ohio State does not currently cover the equipment needed to compete, so Langerak will have to purchase that independently.

The Buckeyes have recent history with pistol team members reaching the Olympics. Graduate student Katelyn Abeln will represent the U.S. in Paris this summer after playing a big role in leading Ohio State to three consecutive national championships.

Langerak became involved with pistol competition through Beltrami County's 4-H club, where he joined the Shooting Sports and Wildlife program. He saw an opportunity to develop as an individual that fit what he was looking for.

"I've found a lot of resilience and (learned) to keep going no matter what," Langerak said. "I enjoy the personal (aspect of the) sport. It allows for a lot more personal growth and figuring out what you can do better every day. I got enrolled in my local 4-H program, shooting sports and wildlife, and just stuck to it. It opened up doors for me."

In order to one day qualify for the Olympics, Langerak must acquire ranking points at national competitions. He could then advance to the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he will compete against the best in the country.

It's not the most straightforward path. But he's on his way, and heading to Columbus will enable him to train alongside others on the Olympic track he hopes to find himself walking one day.

"Now that I've made it into the first step of the Olympic program, I can go to two designated spots," Langerak said. "One is Fort Myers, (Fla.), and the other is Colorado Springs. And I believe it's five matches a year I would have to go to to acquire a rank."

If he becomes ranked highly enough, Langerak could eventually reach the Olympic trials. And who knows — one day, you might see him competing at the highest level.