The Ball High School air rifle team has continued to dominate this season, going undefeated through their first four competitions of the season.
Members of the team are a part of the high school’s JROTC program.
The air rifle team has been around at Ball High School for years and is coached by Maj. Mark Knight.
The team competes in the National Air Rifle League and is currently in first place in its division.
“There are five or six leagues in the army division,” Knight said. “Army teams compete against Army teams. Navy teams compete against Navy teams, etc. It’s a national league.”
The team competes in the Army JROTC Leaders Division of the Orion National Air Rifle League, which is sponsored by the Orion Scoring System.
The league is a national team league for high school teams and junior rifle clubs.
“We shoot with what they call a sporter rifle,” Knight said.
The competitions are slightly different from what some people would expect in that the teams compete from the school.
“What’s interesting is that we shoot at home and then we have a scanner via licensing that once we’re doing, whatever the competition is, we take the orion targets and we put them through a scanner,” Knight said.
As for the season, the league has two parts. An eight-week round-robin regular season is going on now where teams compete for their division title, followed by the postseason, comprising of two single-elimination tournaments. Only the top 16 teams across all divisions advance to the postseason to compete for the league title.
“Its year-round,” Knight said. “It’s all the way through. A lot of the early competitions will be by postal and then some of the results by postal, depending on how good they are, you will get an invite to regional or sections. The largest and most prestigious one is to get to Colorado Springs to the national shooting championships. That’s the hardest one.”
Unsurprisingly, there are different categories that people shoot at, including prone, standing and kneeling while shooters aim for a target.
“We have different competitions,” Knight said. “We have postal competitions which is based on the old postal abilities. You shoot at home and they use an NRA target and when they shoot, we have a record fire piece of paper that we all authorize those shots and then mail them back to them for scoring. That’s a postal match.”
In each game, the teams compete in what is known as a three-position air rifle match. The match is modeled after Olympic rifle competitions but adapted to high school age athletes. Each athlete shoots 10 shots in three different shooting positions, prone, standing, and kneeling. Each shot is worth a maximum of 10 points. The sum of points scored in the 30 shots is the athlete’s total. The team score is comprised of the best four athletes from each team.
“You shoot 10 from the prone, 10 from standing, 10 from kneeling,” Knight said. “You can shoot inside the shape as much as you want or until the time limit is up and then you have to move out to start shooting the targets and you get 10 shots at 10 targets. That little dot is a 10. At the precision level, about 99 percent of the shots hit that dot.”
There are different levels.
“Prone is very difficult,” Knight said. “It’s lying down. It’s a much more relaxed, un-supporting position. Then you move to standing which requires great practice. Your best shooters will hopefully master all three but if you can’t master standing, you’re not going to win anything. It’s always a fight and practice for us to get where we want to go. When one or two do well, everyone around them tends to do well, too. All of a sudden, you’ve hit some magic and the scores will increase.”
Last week, Ball AJROTC defeated Dinwiddie AJROTC (representing Virginia Air Rifle League) by a score of 960 to 925.
Christopher Bonnette led Ball AJROTC and shot a 256. The remaining contributing members were Dreylon Blankenship, Maricela Salinas and Fatima Estrada.
As the season progresses, the members of Ball AJROTC are eager to improve their scores.
“For this season, I wish to end in first place and I also hope to have my score up to a 260,” Estrada said, who is currently in her third year of competing. “As of right now, I believe my best score was a 248 against a team from Florida. It was about three weeks ago.”
Ball High AJROTC recently competed against Ridge Community High School AJROTC this week but results were unavailable at press time.