By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)March 27, 2019
Anniston, Alabama (March 23, 2019) -- Junior Reserve Officers' Training Cadets from all the services turned out this past weekend to compete in the 2019 JROTC National Air Rifle Championships and see who had the steady hands and keen eyesight to be named the best air rifle marksmen.
One-hundred and forty-four cadets from across the country and Europe competed in individual and team events to see who was the best at the end of the day.
One of those cadets competing was Taylor Gibson, from North Salem High School, Oregon. Gibson went into the competition as the winner of the all-service individual precision category the previous two years.
Gibson said she started her career as a marksman when her father took her to try it with a junior shooting group at his gun club. After trying and enjoying it, her cousin started introductions for her with the school JROTC instructor and a match was made.
"I'm not super athletic but I love to shoot, and I went into practice and everyone was super focused on what they were doing. I thought it was really cool that other people were doing what I like to do, and go to matches and compete," she said. "It was also another coach to talk to me, and the more coaching you get, the better you will be."
Gibson said she likes the sport of air rifle marksmanship because of the focus it takes.
"I like the calm of shooting. I sing David Bowie songs in my head so I don't overthink it," she explained. "If I do start to overthink, I think 10.5 because if I strive for a 10.9, a perfect shot, I'm probably not going to get it. But if I strive for a very good shot, I'm more likely to shoot a better shot."
First Sgt. Jim Wagner, Gibson's coach and Senior Army Instructor at her school, said it's that ability to stay focused that's brought her to this point.
"She's always been the same person -- she never gets high and she never gets low. I think that's a testament to why she does as well as she does," he said.
Gibson has signed with the University of Memphis and will be joining their rifle team this fall. She plans to study nursing, while also keeping Olympic dreams.
"There are matches in October that will get me to the next match to get to the Olympics. I'll be trying to make it to Tokyo. I just want to make it as far as I can with it," she said.
Even with such lofty goals, Gibson said the main reason she competes is because she just enjoys the sport.
"I just try to have fun because if you're not having fun, what's the point? I was told that very early on in my shooting career by another coach. Just have fun and if you're not having fun, quit," she said.
This year Gibson placed third in the National JROTC Precision Championship competition. She also placed first in the Army Individual Precision Overall category, followed by Anusha Pakkam, Roswell High School, Georgia, and Jayne Fraley, Oregon City High School, Oregon, respectively.
Cailin Garrett, Greenbriar East High School, West Virginia, placed first in the Army Individual Sporter Overall category. She was followed by Jake Slingluff, Lebanon High School, Oregon, and Nathaniel Romero, Pueblo County High School, Colorado.
In team competition by service, Lebanon High School, Oregon, was the top team Army Sporter Overall category, followed by Pueblo County High School, Colorado, and Summerlin Academy, Florida.
Walla Walla High School, Washington, took first in the Army Precision Overall team category. They were followed by Fountain Fort Carson, Colorado, in second and Sarasota Military Academy, Florida, in third.
JROTC serves as a character and leadership development program for our nation's high school students. The mission of JROTC is to instill the values of citizenship, service to the nation, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. One of the goals of JROTC participation is to learn to act with integrity and personal accountability as students learn to lead others to succeed in a diverse and global community.
There are approximately more than 310,000 Cadets enrolled in JROTC in more than 1,700 high schools across the U.S., four territories, and in four countries, led by 4,000 retired Army instructors.
For more information about JROTC, please visit: http://www.usarmyjrotc.com/