By NICK SHEPHERD
On July 1, the familiar booming sounds associated with the Fourth of July fireworks were heard around Camp Perry, Ohio.
But these sounds were coming from air rifles, not fireworks.
Several of those air rifles belonged to members of the David Crockett High School NJROTC rifle team. The team took part in a two-day Air Rifle competition, bringing home the national championship.
The road to determining which state has the best junior marksmen in the country is a long one, beginning with the start of a new school year.
According to Commander John Roberts, anyone in JROTC is free to join the rifle team which usually starts out with about 23 people.
There are long practice hours three days a week and a lot of travel involved with being on the rifle team. The number of members dwindles over the school year due to the strenuous demands placed on the students.
When competitions start, around 10 students remain on the rifle team. Every member of the team is allowed to shoot in competitions, but only the best five shooters go to nationals.
The chosen five are picked based on their performances in the state competitions, some of which took place in Chattanooga and Nashville this year.
Crockett has done well in state competitions recently, representing Tennessee in the national competition for the last four years.
Twenty-one states, some from as far away as Hawaii, were represented in this years competition, which even included a little international flavor with the South African National team also taking part.
I really enjoyed meeting the team from South Africa, said Jessica Kudera, a rising senior at Crockett. It was really cool to meet people from across the country, too.
Shawn Wingerter, who graduated from DCHS in May, also enjoyed the trip.
The trip was fun. We got to see a lot of local places and visit some ice cream shops, he said. We went to a lighthouse near the Canadian border and did some fishing because we were right beside the lake.
Wingerter holds the national Navy scoring record for shooting in the 3×20, in which shooters take 60 total shots from the prone, standing, and kneeling positions. Out of a possible score of 600, Shawn scored a record-breaking 562, enough to rank him as the 24th best air rifle shooter in the country.
There are two different categories in the national competition – precision shooting and sporter shooting.
The only real difference between the two categories, according to Roberts, is money.
In the sporter category, it costs about $900 per person to equip and compete in the competition. In the precision category it costs $5,000 to $6,000 to compete, he said. So, sporter is a more economical way to let people shoot.
The JROTC used some fundraising to pay for their trip and the Tennessee Shooting Sports Association paid the entry fees since Crockett had won the state championship. Crockett also received a grant from the NRA last year to upgrade its equipment.
The competition is scored on precision, and Camp Perry, Ohio, offers world-class shooting ranges. Instead of the paper targets that are used on the state level, a state-of-the-art electric range measures everything, including sound, to gauge the distance from the target.
This is Crocketts first National Championship.
The NJROTC championship team includes Matthew Hawkins, Jesse Adams, Meghan Lockwood, Kudera and Wingerter, who is already enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and ships out in November.
By NICK SHEPHERD