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FCHS Air Rifle team takes aim for successful season

by Mari-Alice Jasper, Courier staff

The Fort Campbell Courier
Fort Campbell, KY | November 22, 2016

FCHS Rifle Team
Photo by:  Mari-Alice Jasper | Courier

The Fort Campbell High School Air Rifle Team is comprised of five members, (from left) Kaitlin Wood, senior and team captain, Craig Alia, senior, Pilar Lares, junior, Julia Ross, senior, and Sara Rendon, senior. The team is ranked sixth in the Elite Division, with a 2-4 season.

A pop music melody and the sound of pellets firing out of air rifles mingled together and harmonized as members of Fort Campbell High School's advanced air rifle team laid in the prone position and aimed at the targets across from them in the JROTC classroom.

From prone, the team moved to kneeling and then progressed to the standing position. Each of the riflemen careful to aim and shoot as accurately as possible.

The advanced team is comprised of five members, including one fourth-year, two third-year and two second-year shooters. The beginner's team is also comprised of five shooters.

Staff Sgt. Ira Turner, JROTC instructor and air rifle head coach, said to try out for the team the riflemen must complete a gun safety class and pass the test with a 100 percent score.

The gun safety class is approved by the National Rifle Association and is Civilian Marksmanship approved. Turner said he is also certified by JROTC, the NRA and Civilian Marksmanship approved to coach the team.

"My advanced team right now in the Orion Tournament is gauged in the center class, the Elite Division," he said. "You'd think that was the top, but it's not. The Elite Division is two steps down from the top, but two steps up from the bottom."

Turner said his riflemen were determined to shoot well in all three positions: prone, kneeling and standing. He said for most shooters, prone is the easiest shot while standing is the most difficult.

"You can teach prone, it's more stable and sturdy," he said. "But if someone already has the ability to stand and shoot well, that's the hardest thing to teach. If you look at their scores, standing is usually the lowest score of the three because it is so difficult."

In their recent tournament against Joliet Central High School, a school in Joliet, Ill. Kaitlin Wood, senior and team captain, scored a 91 in the prone position, but scored a 78 standing. She said standing is difficult for her, because she has less control over the rifle.

"I need to remember to slow down when I'm shooting," she said. "I tend to go faster and I end up making mistakes and not getting as many [bull's eyes] as I would like."

Even though the targets are stationary, Wood said it feels like trying to shoot a moving target, especially in the standing position.

"When you are standing there, [the rifle] moves around a lot," she said. "Your body is moving and even your heartbeat makes the rifle move, which causes the target to move even more."

Wood said maintaining breath control is a technique many riflemen use to help improve their scores.

"It's a major contributor," she said. "If you are breathing too fast it can mess up how you shoot, but if you are breathing too slowly, it can mess you up as well."

She said being able to control your nerves is also helpful when shooting.

"Nerves get to a lot of people," she said. "You have to remind yourself to just calm down and think of a place that makes you calm. That's what I find helps. Just concentrate. That's really important, too."

Wood joined the Fort Campbell team three years ago after beginning her air rifle career while her Family was stationed in Germany.

"I was going into high school and I met the instructor for air rifle there through a mutual friend," she said. "He asked me to join, so I tried out for the team and that was it. I was hooked. I really just fell in love with it. Especially the people. We are so close knit."

Wood said she wanted to go to college on a shooting scholarship, but decided to enlist in the Navy instead. "I realized college wasn't really what I wanted to do," she said. "So hopefully the Navy will have a shooting team. It's not something I'm ready to give up yet."

Her teammate, Ross, said she was planning to attend college on a shooting scholarship. She said she has checked to make sure every college she has applied to has a ROTC program and air rifle team.

Ross, the top shooter in the competition against Joliet, shot a 94 in prone, 78 standing and 86 kneeling.

"I guess I'm just a little shaky," she said. "The standing is my weaker pose, but kneeling is my favorite. I like to be in a cramped position. It's very comfortable to me. I have more control over the rifle."

Ross, who has been shooting for several years, said she has continued to participate in the sport because it has improved her coordination, accuracy and self-confidence.

She said she is even more motivated to excel in other aspects of her life because she is advancing as part of the air rifle team.

"When I shoot really well I just feel so accomplished," she said. "It's very satisfying to me and it's probably what I love most about the sport. I don't know how to describe it, but it's just that euphoric state that you've succeeded."

As a freshman, Ross decided to join the Fort Campbell air rifle team because she wanted to become more involved in the JROTC program. She said she went through all of the teams and attended the camps before finding the air rifle team.

"It just sounded so cool to me," she said. "I thought it would be awesome to be able to go up to people and say, 'Hey, I shoot!' and that would be a sport of mine or a life skill. My mom was like, 'Uh, are you sure that's what you want to do? Of course my dad was like, 'Atta Girl! That's my kid!' So that's how that went."

TEAM members

Advanced Team:

Kaitlin Wood -- senior

Julia Ross -- senior

Sara Rendon -- senior

Craig Alia -- senior

Pilar Lares -- junior

Junior Varsity Team:

Jessica Ross -- freshman

Kaitlin Reese -- freshman

Anikan Vera -- freshman

Rhiannon Greenwell -- freshman

Duncan Greenwell -- sophomore

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