BY ASHLEY BRUGNONE, CMP STAFF WRITER
At 27, Spc. Sagen Maddalena of the Army Marksmanship Unit has already compiled a striking collection of awards and recognitions over her rifling career. Her latest accomplishment is arguably one of her most impressive – earning a spot on the United States rifle team bound for Tokyo in July, after qualifying to compete in smallbore rifle.
Though the experience will undoubtedly create incredible memories and engrain lessons that she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life, it’s the unforgettable moments she already collected over the years that granted her the ability to ultimately gain her ticket to Tokyo.
Seemingly from the start, Sagen has harvested enormous marksmanship achievements. As a junior, she earned her Distinguished Rifleman Badge from the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) in 2011 and a place within the prestigious President’s 100 during the National Matches at Camp Perry in 2010 and 2011.
She was also named the National Matches High Overall Junior by the National Rifle Association that same year and went on to help lead her team to a Junior Rifle Team Whistler Boy Trophy as well as the Freedom’s Fire Trophy in 2013.
In college, she became an eight-time All-American at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a World Championship team member in 2014 and 2018 before enlisting in the Army in March 2019 as a part of the International team as a shooter/instructor.
It’s clear that Sagen has worked hard over the years to achieve several commendable milestones, but much of her pathway was paved thanks to the help of her involvement with her junior team, the California Grizzlies.
Many Grizzlies have advanced to the Air Force Academy, Army Marksmanship Unit, U.S. Rifle Team, Navy and other remarkable entities. Now, the team can add “Olympian” to its alumni.
Sagen grew up in northern California’s Tuolumne County, in Groveland, where she was in the thick of some of the state’s most scenic areas.
“My backyard was the Sierra National Forest, so I was outside all the time,” she said.
Eventually, around age 13, she got involved in 4-H where she raised livestock and was on her local 4-H .22 program. Sagen carefully observed how each took the time to do more than just monitor during the matches – they also taught the athletes on the range. She would come to learn that the juniors were members of the California Grizzlies rifle team.
“Robert Taylor – I’ve had so many great mentors, but I always will and always have looked up to him because of the example he set as a coach,” she said.
Her connection with the team also led her to her first chance to travel to the famous Camp Perry National Matches in Ohio.
In 2009, two weeks before the Grizzlies were set to board the plane for the trip, she got into a horse accident where she dislocated and damaged her shoulder. She said she was fine with the injury and didn’t even cry – that is, until the doctor told her she wouldn’t be able to go to Camp Perry. Eventually, she healed and made her Camp Perry debut in 2010.
After she showed promise as a talented marksman and became captain of the Grizzlies toward the end of her service rifle career, her coaches mentioned that she could expand her abilities by shooting collegiately, which could lead to a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. She got into contact with the University of Alaska Fairbanks head coach, Dan Jordan, who offered her a spot on the team as a red-shirt walk-on, with the opportunity to earn scholarships based on her performance.
“As soon as I got access to the range, that’s where I lived,” she said.
Her long-term goals in college were simple: be a World Championship team member, set a National Record and make the Olympic team.
“Now, I want to be the best that I can be,” she said of her competitive mentality. “I want to compete at my very best.”
“I definitely want to do the very best that I can do, prepare the best that I can, and make the small Tuolumne County proud and the country proud and definitely represent the Army and the United States,” she said. “So, I’m looking forward to the opportunity that allows me to do.”