FORT BENNING, Ga. — The Walla Walla High School JROTC Precision Rifle Team finished fourth overall at the Army Marksmanship Unit’s Junior Air Rifle Championship here this week.
More than 100 shooters were invited from throughout the country, having qualified through local matches for the event. Precision marksmen fired a course of 60 standing shots for each of two days of competition.
Wa-Hi’s team qualified for the event by winning the Washington state local qualifier held in Walla Walla in October.
“We have never been invited to this match before,” said coach Mark Mebes. “This was a new experience for us. Most of our rifle matches are three position events where we fire 20 shots prone, 20 shots standing and 20 shots kneeling. This match was all fired from the standing position which is the same way that NCAA college and Olympic air rifle events are conducted. It was a great experience for our shooters that are headed off to shoot in college next year.”
Freshman Cadet Corporal Daniel Enger was the top scoring Wa-Hi shooter in the event. On the first day of competition, Enger fired a 573 out of 600, which earned him a spot in the final.
The final takes the top eight shooters from the regular match for a 10-shot match.
Enger entered the final in seventh place, and he fired a 101.5 out of 109 in the final — the best on the day — to improve to fifth.
“That was my first final match,” said Enger. “I was nervous at first, but once I started getting into position and checking my equipment, I was able to focus.”
The second day of the match proved even better for Enger. In the regular 60-shot match, he finished with the team’s highest score of 578, again making the final eight in fifth place.
“We knew it was going to be difficult for him to move up in placement,” said Mebes. “Cody Sanchez, the No. 4 shooter, was ahead of him by two points. The No. 3 shooter, Darren Kasl, was ahead by three. That’s a lot of ground to make up in only 10 shots in precision shooting, where everyone in the top eight is shooting 10s on nearly every shot.”
Enger surprised the audience by once again maintaining the highest score as the final progressed. By the time the ninth shot was fired, he was only a fraction of a point behind the third- and fourth-place shooters, who were in a virtual deadlock.
On the 10th and final shot, Kasl shot a 9.4 and Sanchez a 9.8.
Seconds later Enger fired a 10.8 to leap into third place for the day.
“When he shot that last shot, we cheered so loud for him,” said team captain Sarah Jameson. “We wanted him to hear us, even through his earplugs.”
Enger’s 10-shot score of 102.in the final proved again to be the highest in the field, garnering him fifth place overall.
“We are so proud of Daniel,” said Cadet Lieutenant Allison Juergensen, who will graduate this spring. “I looked at Sergeant Mebes and said, ‘That freshman is a keeper!’ It’s good to know that Wa-Hi is going to have a strong team next season after we are gone.”
The Blue Devils’ fourth-place finish earned the team a $1,250 award from the Georgia Shooting Sports Foundation.
The team travels to Spokane for the JROTC Mountain League Championship match this weekend.