The School Newspaper of Vista Ridge High School

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Air Rifle team wins fourth in State

Ashley Mack, Reporter

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Eye on the target, not a halter in his step, junior Kain Mclemore makes a clean shot at the target to subsequently advance to the final. On Dec. 17 in Joshua, Texas, Kain Mclemore and senior Nathan Wheeler led the NJROTC air rifle team to fourth in the state, while Mclemore placed sixth in the state individually.

Air rifle is a sport of marksmanship shooting an air compressed single shot pellet gun. It takes countless hours every week of practice both physically and mentally.

The team prepares for competition with rigorous drills and focused mindsets practicing  two hours after school. They treat practice like a competition. First, they prepare their gear, rifles, mats, pellets and targets. Next, they stretch and start off shooting prone, lying flat on the ground. After they are comfortable with that, they shoot standing and kneeling. They have 10 minutes to shoot prone and kneeling and 15 minutes to shoot standing. After shooting, they grade targets and write notes on what they did well and what they need to improve on.

“My motivation in practice is that if I don’t hit dead center, either that zombie isn’t dead or that enemy soldier isn’t dead,” Kain said. “I aspire to be a Navy Seal, because I idolize Chris Kyle- the most lethal sniper ever. Therefore, I discipline myself harshly to get the best shot I can. This includes focus. We mainly try our best to focus on the objective and get the best shot possible. There are times where we completely act like kids to get the nerves and laughs out. The team is a big group of friends and we do what we do for each other like family. A saying we say when it comes to tough practices or competitions is ‘practice like you compete and compete like you practice’.”

There are two teams, based on age and skill. Team one consists of Mclemore, Wheeler,  Tyler Schumaker and Carson Everett. Team one enters into mailed competitions or they travel to different schools. Competition is a big shootout against other schools and whichever school has the greatest score collectively wins.

“One thing I look forward to in competitions is called a final,” Mclemore said. “This is where the top 10 shooters compete for number one. We are given 40 seconds for each shot 10 times. I’ve been in plenty of finals because I’m one of the best shooters on the team.”

After spending so much time together at practices and camps with former Olympians and NCAA shooters as their mentors, the shooters develop a brotherly bond that will teach them all to be better riflers by giving each other advice.

“The best part is the bonding between the team,” Wheeler said. “It’s not like a team, it’s a family. My motivation comes from two former cadets who shot with me. The team itself has greatly affected my life. I’ve met Olympians, president’s hundred shooters and NCAA shooters. I’ve also gained a lot of experience in the shooting discipline which will help me in my military career. I joined the team because it seemed like a challenge. The top shooters during my freshman year seemed so cool. My goal was to outshoot them by my senior year, which I did. We make each other stronger. For instance, guys like me who have been shooting for four years teach the younger guys. I’m most proud of coaching amazing shooters and taking my team to state and placing in the top five.”

After a long semester of hard work, the team came out on top due to their hard work and discipline.

“The thing I look most forward to in a competition is the silence. It’s just you, the rifle, and your target,” Wheeler said.

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