ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Walla Walla High School JROTC Precision Rifle Team claimed the Army JROTC Western Regional Championship here last weekend.
The two-day match, hosted by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, included 239 of the top rifle marksmen from JROTC programs in the Western United States.
Wa-Hi’s precision team, consisting of Cadet Lieutenant Andrew Jenkins, Cadet Lieutenant Allison Juergensen, Cadet First Sergeant Sarah Jameson, Cadet Private First Class Daniel Enger and Cadet Master Sergeant Samantha French competed against 18 other precision rifle teams for a spot at the JROTC All Service National Championship in Camp Perry, Ohio, in March.
“This team has shot in Albuquerque before” coach Mark Mebes said. “We knew that we would be affected by the elevation and the dry air, so we prepared for it as well as we could. I had them drinking as much water as they could hold and watching their diets. I don’t think we were as severely affected as last year.”
The team reported to the rifle range on Friday for check-in, equipment inspection and a light practice to ensure that everything was in working order.
“We employed a different strategy for this match” Mebes said. “ Normally, we use the whole hour during the practice session to shoot as much as possible so we get comfortable, but I have noticed that we always shoot great on practice day, then lower on the first day of the match. I didn’t want them to get too comfortable this time, so I only let them shoot enough in each position to make sure their gear worked correctly and their sights were on. I wanted them to have that slight nervous edge going into the match.”
On the first day of competition, the team took the line and in the prone position produced two perfect 200s — one by Juergensen and the other by Enger — with the rest of the team only a few points back. By the end of the first day’s shooting, both Enger and Jameson were in a virtual tie, with Jameson slightly ahead by four “inner-10s” (a center-shot that takes the ten-ring completely off the target).
At the end of the first day of shooting, Wa-Hi held a comfortable lead of 48 points over the second place team, 2,322-2,274.
Cadet First Sergeant McKenna French, the only sporter class shooter from Wa-Hi to qualify for the event, fired a 502 on day one, which was a personal record for her.
“I am so glad that I shot well here today” French said. “I could have shot a little better in prone and kneeling, but I figured out what I was doing wrong, and I think I’ll shoot even better tomorrow.”
On the final day of competition on Sunday, Jameson, Juergensen, Enger, Jenkins and French geared up to hold onto their lead.
After shooting from the prone and standing positions, Jameson and Enger were tied again.
“I was so nervous going into the kneeling position” Enger said afterward. “Yesterday, I beat my previous personal record by 18 points. I was hoping I could do that again but I dropped a point in prone and several more in standing today.”
Jameson came out first in the kneeling set with a score of 586. Enger finished second with a score of 580.
“I couldn’t be happier with both of them,” Mebes said. “I am absolutely thrilled that we have a freshman cadet shooting national match scores in the 580s. That is nearly unheard of in JROTC circles. Cadet Enger created quite a buzz at this match.”
In the Sporter class, French’s prediction after Saturday’s shooting came to fruition.
“The last thing Sergeant Mebes told me was to watch my sight alignment and my trigger squeeze and just pretend I was back home shooting on our targets in Walla Walla,” she said. “I didn’t get as nervous as yesterday and I shot better in all three positions. I’m on cloud nine right now.”
McKenna’s score of 520, besides being another personal record for her, put her in the top half of the shooters on the second day.
“She really brought her ‘A-game’ today,” Mebes said. “That is a national-level sporter class score. She is leaving Albuquerque a much stronger shooter than she was two days ago. We are excited to see where she goes from here.”
Overall, Walla Walla’s precision squad finished with a two-day total of 4625, taking first by 89 points. The team’s score also set a new two-day team score record, shattering the previous mark set last year in Anniston, Ala., at the JROTC National Championship of 4613.
Besides the title and the trophy, Wa-Hi likely garnered a spot at the JROTC All Service National Championship next month in Ohio and won a $7,000 team endowment from Midway USA as winners of the regional match.
Next week, the team travels to Fort Benning, Ga. for the two-day US Army National Air Rifle Championship hosted by the Army Marksmanship Unit.