Ozark air rifle team has championship pedigree

They are the Ozark Tiger Air Rifle Team.  And in four the last five years, they've won the junior ROTC national championships by beating out some 7,000 sharpshooters from high schools all over the country.

Six days a week for most of the year, they attend two-hour practices to perfect a craft that is much like the Olympic sport.  Standing, kneeling, or laying prone, they fire pellets made of soft lead from a rifle powered by compressed air at a stationary target 33-feet away.  If they're good, they hit a bulls-eye which is the size of the head of a pin.

In order to be that steady in a sport where boys and girls compete side-by-side, you have to watch what you eat, how you breathe, and have tremendous concentration, self-discipline, and mental toughness.

"Everyone thinks, I can shoot.  I shot my dad's .22 when I was kid," said senior Makennon Doran.  "But this is an entirely different type of shooting."

My dad always joked with me that he could outshoot my any day," recalled Shelby Brummett, a senior member of the team.  "Being a girl a lot of people think it's strange that I can shoot a rifle.  But I can beat my dad."

"Their physical conditioning has to be extremely strong," explained 1st Sgt. Terry Thompson.  "Their leg muscles have to be strong.  There's no caffine or soda going inside their bodies.  And with proper conditioning, they're going to have a real slow heartbeat.  And they will get to where they'll be shooting in-between heartbeats."

The team competes in about 20 events per year leading up to the qualifying event for the national tournament.  Three of Ozark's national titles came in the sporter division for newcomers who compete with less expensive rifles.  But last year Ozark competed for the first time in the advanced precision catagory for elite teams.  And they beat the defending national champions from Kentucky to become the best of the best.

"It means a lot," senior Logan Hunt said of the national title. "It means all my hard work has paid off and all my friends hard work has paid off and that we have a relationship together as a family."

This year the team has already set a new national record for highest-point total, proving they're once again national championship material.  But the accomplishments extend beyond glory.

"My freshman year I was a stinking airhead," laughs Brummett.  "I didn't know right from left.  But through shooting I'm able to focus, I have self-discipline, and I know when to make the right choice."

"The most difficult part for me was self-confidence," adds Hunt.  "Telling myself I can do it and not let other people bring me down.  I can do it myself."

And they're doing it at an unprecedented level.

Filed Under :  
Topics : Ozark
People : Logan HuntShelby BrummettTerry Thompson
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