In a season that has produced significant improvement, the Douglas High School Army Junior ROTC rifle team on Tuesday saved its best performance for the last match.
A season-best score was not enough to win, unfortunately, as the Tigers came up on the short end of a 1,219-1,181 total in their season-ending match against Reed. Douglas finished its 2013-14 season with a 3-7 record.
“They all shot personal bests, except for one,” said Bud Ford, retired major and first-year director of the Douglas Junior ROTC program. “Reed is one of the best teams, they’re third out of 13 teams (in the Northern Nevada league), so it was a good day for us, actually. They’ve improved every week.”
Senior Ashleigh Ota logged a personal best 260 that tied Reed’s Chance Williams as the best individual score of the match held at Douglas High’s on-campus indoor range. To put her score in perspective, 300 is a perfect score.
Each team fields a lineup of six shooters, with the top five scores figuring into the results. Those results are based on accuracy shooting at targets from a distance of 10 meters using air pellet rifles. Each shooter is scored in two separate rounds from three positions — prone, standing and kneeling.
Ota, a second year member of the Tigers’ rifle team, had scores of 91 in prone (second best overall) and kneeling (tied for first overall).
Teammates Brandon Stewart and Lucas Gantner shot 234. Stewart’s 79 and Gantner’s 74 in the prone ranked second and fourth overall.
To gauge the improvement, Douglas won three matches this season, and had one loss to Sparks decided by eight points, but didn’t win any matches last season.
“I think we’re pretty good,” said Fricke, a senior who has been one of the team’s top two shooters most of this season. “We’re not out there quite yet with some of the other teams, but we’re quickly gaining on them. Last year, we weren’t near as close as we were this year.”
Ota is one of few female shooters in the league, however, Tuesday’s results show she more than holds her own against any shooter in the North regardless of gender.
Has she improved over the last two years? Yes, indeed.
“I’m very proud, especially since I’m one of the best shooters on the team,” Ota said. “I just shoot by the book, as the major says.”
The female shooters often do surpass their male counterparts, Ford noted.
“They pay attention and they follow your directions exactly,” he said. “We just do the basics. We don’t try to get super fancy … just do what it says in the book.”
Practice makes perfect, of course.
“You just can’t get out on the lane and start shooting,” said Sgt. Maj. Arthur Walker, a 32-year Army veteran who has been with Douglas JROTC since 2008. “You have to know technique, breathing, your dominant eye, control of the weapon, how to put the sling on — it’s a process.”
Stewart offered a simple explanation as the key to improvement on the range.
“A lot of pulling the trigger. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun,” he added. “I’m never the top shot, but I try, and I keep shooting.”
In terms of excitement or entertainment, rifle matches aren’t exactly fan friendly. The Douglas and Reed shooters on Tuesday were viewed by a handful of spectators and two instructors.
That atmosphere was much different than the recent homecoming basketball game at Douglas, where Stewart served on the Junior ROTC color guard before a crowd of nearly 1,000.
“Sometimes I wish I had that crowd cheering me on every shot,” he said, flashing a smile. “But (on the range), I think it’s even better to have just one or two people there.”