ELEANOR - Jason Black sees the world a little more clearly now.
More important, he sees targets more clearly. In fact, he sees them much more clearly - clearly enough, in fact, to arrive home from the recent National Smallbore Prone Rifle Matches as a national champion.
The 18-year-old from Huntington dominated the Junior Sharpshooter division. His four-day aggregate score of 4,737 outdistanced his nearest rival by 10 points.
"That's a heck of a margin," said Black's coach, Bill Shank. "Usually these competitions are decided by one or two points, or even [tiebreakers based on the number of center shots]."
Just one year earlier, Black was a non-factor at the National Matches. Then he got glasses.
"It turned out I had terrible astigmatism in both eyes," Black explained. "As soon as I got glasses, the targets cleared up immediately."
His practice scores skyrocketed.
"Up to then, Jason had been making slow but steady progress," Shank said. "When he came out with glasses his scores went up sharply and have stayed at that peak for nearly a year."
With corrective eyewear, Black found himself hitting the bull's-eye with the sort of consistency he'd dreamed of since he joined the Putnam County Youth Smallbore Club four years before.
"He was 14 when he joined the club," recalled Rodney Black, Jason's dad. "We were at the  West Virginia Hunting and Fishing show and walked by the club's booth. Jason saw all those nice rifles and said he'd like to try that."
Jason joined the club in April of that year and, like all newcomers, learned the fundamentals with his rifle propped on sandbags.
"It didn't take me long to get off the sandbags, though," he said. "By the middle of the summer I was shooting without them."
In 2010, Black shot at the National Matches for the first time and earned a Marksman rating from the National Rifle Association. He returned to Camp Perry, Ohio, for the 2011 matches and upgraded his rating to Sharpshooter.
Shortly after the 2011 competition, Black had his eyes examined and discovered his astigmatism problem. With glasses he practiced better and, when given the chance, competed better.