Army Junior ROTC Cadet Makennon Doran, right, congratulates fellow Cadet Kevin Cruz on his win in the finals Saturday of the 2012 Army JROTC Air Rifle Championships in Anniston Ala. The event was held simultaneously with Camp Perry, Ohio, so more cadets could compete at the same time.

ANNISTON, Ala. (Feb. 14, 2012) -- He had never been in the finals of a major match. But he was now and what's more, Charles Hollis walked away with an individual title.

Hollis, an Army Junior ROTC Cadet and senior at Rayville High School in Louisiana, won the sporter division while Kevin Cruz won the precision division of the 2012 Army JROTC Air Rifle Championships. The competition was held Friday and Saturday simultaneously at Camp Perry, Ohio, and Anniston, Ala. But the two champions both competed in Anniston.

Hollis said he had never been in a big match, but he felt this one was important.

"It was my first big match, my first time in the finals and it was important for my colonel because he is expecting to retire next year and I wanted to send him off with a bang," Hollis explained.

"The hardest part was persevering through the finals," he added. "Tyler Rico has been in a lot of finals and has a lot of experience and I was nervous. I made some mistakes and had to shake them off."

Cadets can compete in two different three-position air rifle events. Precision air rifle is modeled after Olympic-style shooting and allows the use of specialized target rifles and shooting equipment. Sporter air rifle is designed for competitors who want to compete with little customization or specialized shooting equipment.

Hollis and Rico were neck-and-neck for most of the competition. After the first day Rico had an edge on Hollis by one point.

While Hollis shot better in the prone, Hollis's 197 to Rico's 195, Rico had a better kneeling score--188 to 181. Hollis also scored better than Rico in the standing position with a 183 to 179 score. The result was that Rico was ahead with a score of 562 to 561 when Friday ended.

Rico, a senior at Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, Ariz., is well known in the air rifle world. He is currently on the President's 100 list, and according to his senior Army instructor, retired Maj. Robert Dewitt, he is the reigning junior high-power champion. He also shoots small bore.

"I've been shooting competitively since 2005," Rico explained. "Before that I shot recreationally with my dad."

The top eight shooters in each division advance to the finals. Hollis was ahead of Rico with a 1212 to 1211 score going into the finals.

But all the experience in the world didn't keep Rico from shooting two mediocre shots in the finals. A 7.9 on his next to last round, and a 7.7 on his final round negated the 7.8 that Hollis shot on his first round. During the finals Hollis also shot a 10.9--perfect--and a 10.2, while Hollis' best score was 10.3 and a 10.1. All shots in the final round were taken from the standing position.

Cruz, a senior Cadet at Del Valle High School, El Paso, Texas, finished third last year in the precision division but raised his score by six points to take the championships this year.

He held the lead the first day by scoring a perfect 200 in the prone position. Then he built on it in day two with a 199 in the prone and a 197 in the kneeling. By holding the lead both days and winning the finals he beat Mercedes Romih, of Patch High School at Stuttgart Garrison in Germany, by a score of 1266 to 1265.

Tessa Howald, a senior Cadet at Ozark High School in Arkansas, was on her way to winning the title until a mistake on the first day gave her a zero score on a round.

When loading a pellet, the rifle expelled air and shot the pellet into the backstop. Howald quickly acknowledged the error and received a zero for the round. If not for that mistake, officials say she would likely have taken the title. She ended the event in fifth place.

Last year Howald won the sporter division, Rico finished 10th and Hollis was in the top eight. But this year Ozark started a precision team which allowed several of the younger shooters to move up to the sporter team as last year's sporter team moved up to precision.

Makennon Doran, a junior with Ozark and a team mate of Howald, claimed overall fourth place, behind Sarah Jameson of Walla Walla High School in Washington state.

Although this was the first year for Ozark's team in the precision division, they had the best overall team score with 4626. Del Valle High School earned second place with 4596, and third place went to Patch High School with a score of 4576.

Daleville's overall sporter team score put them in first place with a score of 4360, Flowing Wells High School owned second with a score of 4349, and Killeen High School (Texas) claimed third at 4334.

Retired Maj. Robert Dewitt, the senior JROTC instructor at Flowing Wells High School, said he was proud of his team's progress.

"We've been moving up each year--three years ago we took 6th, and last year we took 4th," he said. "We try to keep them focused, and they have to keep their grades up. They are learning discipline and responsibility and how to focus. Those are skills they can use anywhere they go and for anything they do."

Page last updated Tue February 14th, 2012 at 00:00