It required setting two new national precision air rifle records to do it, but Heather Kirby, 16, of Kentucky’s Shelby County High School U.S. Marine Corps JROTC, did just that as she edged her teammate and defending national champion Connor Davis, 19, by just five hundredths of a point in aggregate scoring, 1285.45 to 1285.40, respectively.
Kirby set two new open/overall national records for individual three-position scoring in qualification-plus-final score of 699.0, topping the previous record of 697.5 set by Davis in last year’s National JROTC championship. She also set the new open/overall national record for a final score of 105.0 (109 being perfect in computerized scoring). The latter record also belonged to Davis who set it with a 103.8 in the 2010 Gary Anderson Invitational. Kirby’s performances were also new records for the USMC JROTC in precision air rifle and in her age group of 15 & 16. Both Marine Corps JROTC records formerly belonged to Davis as well.
JROTC National aggregate scoring combines the scores fired in three positions on days 1 and 2 plus the average score of the two finals. Both days Kirby and Davis fired world-class scores and the outcome of the precision championship was not known until the final shot.
Coming into the Nationals, Davis had been nearly invincible since winning the Marine Corps JROTC service and national titles last year, and several events since, including a high junior finish in the U.S. Olympic Trials for Airgun in February. When Davis took a near six-point lead in Day 1 competition in the national championship, including an almost-perfect standing score of 199, it seemed like a repeat JROTC precision championship was within his reach.
In two days of shooting, Davis led in qualification scoring, 1183 to 1182 but neither he nor Kirby shot particularly high-scoring finals on Day 1. Davis started strong again on Day 2 with very good scores in prone and kneeling, but dropped six points in standing.
Kirby put on a clinic in clutch shooting on Day 2 as she made virtually every shot count. She erased almost all of her six-point deficit through qualifying and turned up the heat in the final, firing her national record-breaking 105.0.
The match was so close; it appeared that Davis’ 104.2 (a record that lasted for just seconds) in the Day 2 final could be the break-out he needed until Kirby trumped it with her 105. Since the advent of computerized targetry, no male or female has fired a perfect score of 109 in official competition, but 105 is a world-class final score.
Kirby’s finals score average of 103.45 proved the difference to Davis’ 102.4, making up the overall point she lost in qualifying and boosting her finals average.
Jodi Cull-Host, 18, of Los Alamos High School U.S. Navy JROTC, New Mexico, placed third in the precision competition, just five points behind. Cull-Host fired three 199’s and a 200 in prone and kneeling positions in posting her 1280.25 aggregate.
Tessa Howald, 18, of Ozark High School Army JROTC, Missouri, placed fourth in her first year of precision air rifle competition. Howald placed second in individual sporter air rifle competition in last year’s championship. She shot her way into fourth place in the Day 1 final after a dramatic one shot shoot-off with teammate Makennon Doran, 17.
In the shoot-off, Doran fired first, scoring a 10.3. Howald studied her sight picture and was not satisfied. She regrouped and after an extended hold, fired a 10.5 to clinch the fourth spot.
“I could not have told you where that shot went,” she said with tear-filled eyes at the conclusion of the awards banquet. “It didn’t feel good, but didn’t feel bad. But to go up against a teammate too; I was just so proud of him. He did really well,” she said.
Howald also reflected on her transition from shooting sporter to precision air rifle this season after years of sporter competition. “At first it was really difficult to transfer everything, but it’s been one of the best things I think anyone could do, to start out in sporter and then transfer,” she said.
In JROTC service competition in precision class, Kirby and Davis led the Marine Corps. Kelsey Moral, 17, of East Coweta High School USMC JROTC, placed third with a score of 1262.9.
Howald was the high Army JROTC competitor with an aggregate score of 1271.5. In second place was Doran, who fired a 1265.3 and Jasmine Juarez, 17, of Del Valle High School Army JROTC placed third with a total score of 1264.9.
In Navy JROTC competition, Jodi Cull-Host led the way, followed by Darren Kasl, 17, of El Dorado High School, Texas, who fired an aggregate of 1268.1. Briana Figueroa, 17, of Manzano High School, New Mexico, placed third with a total score of 1264.8.
Christopher Cottrell, 18, of Prairie High School Air Force JROTC, Washington, led the Air Force cadets with an aggregate score of 1159. DeArmond Lopez, 17, of Sandia High School AFJROTC, placed second in the precision class with 1151. It was only the second year of competition for the Air Force JROTC in the precision category. Lopez set the new Air Force JROTC individual precision air rifle national record in the kneeling position on Day 1 with a 197 and 16 center shots.
In team competition, Ozark High School Army JROTC, Missouri, unseated defending champion Shelby County High School USMC JROTC, Kentucky, with a team aggregate score of 4645. It was the first time Ozark has fielded a precision air rifle team. Team members funded the majority of the cost of their own rifles and dedicated themselves to getting up to speed in the precision class with great success. Ozark team members are Tessa Howald, Makennon Doran, Shelby Brummett and Logan Hunt.
Shelby County HS placed second with a combined score of 4637. Team members are Connor Davis, Heather Kirby, Miquel Batz and Cristina Sanchez. Del Valle HS Army JROTC, Texas, placed third with an aggregate score of 4607. Team members are Jasmine Juarez, Kevin Cruz, Jose Arras and Jaime Regis.
Los Alamos HS Navy JROTC, New Mexico, placed fourth with 4577 team match points. Team members are Jodi Cull-Host, Cory Aslin, Tessa Snyder and John Gibson. Walla Walla HS Army JROTC, Washington, placed fifth with an aggregate score of 4555. Team members are Kyle Jameson, Sarah Jameson, Karri Mickelson and Caitlin Lasseigne.
For complete results of the 2012 National JROTC Championships, log onto http://clubs.odcmp.com/cgi-bin/report_matchResult.cgi?matchID=8422. To view, download, print or purchase CMP photos from the event, log onto http://cmp1.zenfolio.com/.