JRRIFLE:
The top eight shooters in the precision class, including Andrea Vautrin of the Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club, pictured on the far right, competed July 6 at the National Junior Olympic Air Rifle Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio. Vautrin took sixth place in the individual precision competition. The Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club took first place in the precision class team competition.

Fort Benning, Ga. - Four shooters from the Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club took first place in the precision class team competition July 6 at the National Junior Olympic Air Rifle Championship at Camp Perry, Ohio.

Jimmie Cooper, Forrest Klien, Andrea Vautrin and Breanna Kasl competed against 31 clubs from around the nation for the win. Fort Benning had a total score of 4,670, a 27-point lead over second-ranked Lincoln Rifle Club of California which scored 4,643.

Shooters competed individually and as a team firing 20 shots each in the prone, kneeling and standing position during the two-day competition.

"The team has been working hard for this," said Vautrin, a senior at Chattahoochee County High School. "No matter what match we are competing in, we try to do our best and place. I knew we had a good chance to place first but I wasn't sure."

Vautrin placed sixth in the individual precision shooting class with a score of 1,282.1 after competing in the finals.

"I was really happy my last shot in the finals was a 10.9," she said. "The whole time, I was thinking, 'don't concentrate on the people behind you, but on shooting and think 10,10,10. Do what you have to do and shoot.'"

Kasl, daughter of SSG Misty and Carl Cazee and a senior at Chattahoochee County High School, said she had the jitters the first day of the event.

"I was nervous the first day," she said. "It was our first time in a competition away from our home range and we were competing with the big dogs - the top shooters in the United States. I was scared I wouldn't be able to hold my rifle straight."

Kasl was off to a rocky start her first day of the championship, but she improved on the second day, she said.

"What kept me going was my teammates encouraging me," she said. "I ended up setting a new personal best of 584 on the second day. I think I could have done better, but I was ecstatic when I found out I made 584."

Kasl, who wears a necklace with the word "determined" engraved on it as a good-luck charm, said she practiced at her home range five days a week, eight hours a day for this championship. Kasl came in 55th with a score of 1,158.

Cooper came in 19th with a score of 1,169 and Klien came in 31st with a score of 1,164.
SSG Armando Ayala, who coaches the Fort Benning Junior Rifle Club, said he wasn't surprised the shooters did so well at the competition.

"I knew they were going to do well," he said. "They committed themselves to training for this event and they are dedicated to shooting."

Ayala put the shooters through a strict training regiment, which included shooting two rounds of 60 shots in prone, standing and kneeling positions five days a week for three weeks.

"I made the training so they would build their endurance up so they would be prepared when it came time for the championship," he said.

Although Ayala wasn't allowed to coach while the shooters were on the line, he did have meetings with them prior to the matches.

"I told them on the first day to be confident and if things aren't going well, don't shoot with fear. Don't feel like performance is controlling you," he said. "On the second day, I told them to be confident and don't be too anxious to finish. Don't rush just to finish shooting. It's not about finishing. It's about accuracy and performance."

In addition to gold medals, the Benning club will add the air rifle they won, valued at around $1,700, Ayala said, to their collection.

Denise Martin of Spokane Junior Rifle Club, Washington, took home the individual precision win with a score of 1,292.4 after competing in the finals. Spanish Springs High School took the scholastic first-place precision win with a combined score of 4,594.

In the sporter class, William Eades III of C.E. Byrd High School JROTC, Louisiana, took the individual win with a score of 1,208.1. Zion Benton High School NJROTC of Illinois took the first place sporter scholastic team win, scoring 4,299 and Lafayette Club of Virginia took the first-place club win, scoring 4,347.

Page last updated Fri July 24th, 2009 at 12:01