LAYTON — Determination and discipline are just a few of the traits developed by those who participate in air rifle marksmanship, according to organizers.
Eye-hand coordination and posture are also important to success in the sport, said participants.
JROTC students from nine western states, from New Mexico to Alaska, took part in a regional competition held in the Davis Conference Center last weekend.
It was one of three held across the country, the other two in Ohio and Alabama.
Brad Donoho, program coordinator for JROTC service championships, said shooting teaches discipline.
“Statistically, it’s one of the safest sports out there,” he said. “It’s a sport where athletic ability is not necessarily a factor, but where determination and self-discipline are important.”
Unlike other sports, men and women can compete against each other in air rifle marksmanship, which is an Olympic sport, he said.
“It teaches attention to detail and concentration,” said Orest Michaels, chief operating officer of the Civilian Marksmanship Program. “It teaches respect for firearms and fire-arm safety.”
Michaels was in Layton from Alabama for the event, Donoho came here from Ohio.
Bailey Rueckert was one of several students representing Clearfield High, the only Utah high school participating.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a good hobby to have. I’ve learned to control my emotions when stressful situations come up.” Competitions are “a good kind of stress,” she said.
Morgan Howard, who is in Utah from Anchorage, Alaska, said her father went to college on a scholarship for the sport, and she likes sharing the interest with him.
A parent from Washington, Eric Cross, said the participation of his son and an exchange student from Germany in the JROTC program has helped them learn respect and civics. “He’s matured a whole lot in the program,” he said of his son.
Students shoot from three positions: prone, kneeling and standing. They aim for a target 10 meters away, and tiny pellets are shot with a burst of compressed air. Screens measure their accuracy.
Gun control was a topic organizers were reluctant to address.
“Our primary responsibility is to teach safety,” said Donoho. “These (guns) are sporting equipment not weapons.”
“We follow the law, whatever the law is,” said Michaels. “We do not try to influence it.”
Students were more open:
“I’m surprised they don’t have background checks already,” said one, calling the rest of the gun control ideas “pretty foolish” if it meant only criminals would have weapons.
For many students, it was their first visit to Utah.
Alejandro Grijalva, a junior from New Mexico, said the area was very beautiful. Morgan Howard liked the sunshine and having longer days than those they are now experiencing in Alaska.
Michaels said the conference center facility was ideal for the competition.