Sports

Local marksmen on target at nationals

Air rifle marskmen from Oak Harbor High School out-performed all other Navy shooters from around the country, coming in third place overall in national competition that included Army, Navy, and Marine Junior ROTC programs.

The Wildcat squad catapulted into the national finals at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 18 and 19 by placing third among Navy competitors. They actually tied for second with an Illinois squad, but lost the tiebreaker. The top three Navy squads were invited to compete against the top three Army and Marine squads the following weekend.

Their success caught the Oak Harbor team off-guard. The team already had return airline tickets and wasn’t expecting to spend the entire week at Fort Benning.

“We weren’t planning on staying,” said team coach CDR Mike Black. “We were going home. But, this was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

After rearranging their schedules, the squad settled in for some of the best shooting of their lives. Although there were no individual superstars on the squad, Black said, the team shot consistently throughout the championship, allowing them to claim “bragging rights” by passing the two higher-seeded Navy squads in the competition.

The team consisted of seniors Ryan Burge, Michael Poggie, and Albert Lorica, and junior Thomas Chandler, with sophomore Wesley Marks making the trip as an alternate. Black credited LTJG George Adams, assigned to VP-40 at NASWI, for providing technical expertise to the team. Adams is a Naval Academy graduate who served as captain of the rifle team there.

Chandler was the top individual marksman during the Navy competition, coming in eighth, while Burge was close behind finishing 11th overall. The following weekend, during the finals competition, Poggie and Burge were the top Wildcat scorers, coming in 15th and 16th respectively.

In marksmanship competition, each shooter fires 20 shots at a distance of 10 meters aiming for a bullseye the size of a half-dollar. They do this in the prone position, off-hand position, and kneeling position, for a total of 60 shots. It takes about two hours to go through all three positions. During the two day competition, they go through this series of positions four times each to accumulate a total score.

“It’s a tremendous exercise in stamina, discipline, and focus,” Black said. “Because, really, just one little hiccup, one flinch and you’re off target.”

Individuals earn their way onto the team and into competition by practicing each morning in the high school field house beginning at 6 a.m. They use high quality air rifles that shoot pellets, learning to shoot with the use of sights, but not scopes. As students improve in their abilities, they move up in terms of the quality and sophistication of the rifles they use. They qualify for the national competition by shooting locally and sending their scores to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for scoring, invitations, and seeding in the national competition.

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