By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
A team on target
Shooters set sites on success
NFHS Rifle Team 3 es
Freshman Rebecca Godwin shoots with her brother, Brandon Godwin, a senior, during practice. - photo by Emily Saunders
Gunnery Sgt. Jack “Gunny” Snook gave the command.

“Line clear,” he yelled.

The eight high school students who had been holding rifles set them down and began to talk among themselves.

“I shot five 10s,” said Josh Kasparek, looking through the scope to count the points from bulls-eyes.

Snook collected the targets from that round and the students moved on to the next shooting position.

It’s just another day for the North Forsyth High School rifle team, which shoots four or five days a week.

The practice has paid off, because the team will compete nationally in Camp Perry, Ohio, starting Feb. 25.

It qualified for the Marine Corps JROTC Service Championship by placing seventh in a nationwide target shooting test. The top nine of 442 teams advanced to the national competition.

Of those, the top three will advance at the end of March to the National JROTC Air Rifle Championship in Alabama, where all military branch JROTC programs will compete.

At North, students on the rifle team are required to be in the JROTC program, which is the only one in the county. Five students will represent the school in Ohio as a four-person team with one alternate.

Two local groups, Automation Direct and American Legion Post 307, are sponsoring the trip, which will cost more than $2,000.

Team member T.J. Mathis said the rifle team, which practices about six to eight hours a week, is going into the competition with the mind-set that “it’s just another day.”

Added teammate Kasparek:  “Rifle team is all mental. There’s really nothing physical about it unless you can’t hold the rifle up.”

When shooting, the only focus needs to be on a 10-point target, other team members said.

“It’s one of the only sports that I know of that you have to control your emotions and you can’t get excited about it,” Brandon Godwin said. “You sort of have to lull yourself into a sense of ‘it doesn’t matter.’”

During the national competition, team members will each shoot at 10 targets from three different positions: standing, kneeling and prone, which is lying down and propped up by the elbows.

Three hundred is a perfect score for an individual.

Shooters get 20 minutes in two of the positions and 15 in kneeling to take as many practice shots as needed at two practice targets before taking the 10 consecutive shots for scoring.

With that much time, shooters need to mentally prepare each shot and steady themselves.

Any small movement is amplified on the target, where millimeters can make a big difference, Snook said.

That perfect moment comes from practice, according to team members.

“It’s when you feel like you’re locked perfectly on to the target,” Mathis said.

“When you stay still for more than two seconds,” Rebecca Godwin said with a smile.

“Sometimes you just know when to pull the trigger,” Brandon Godwin said. “It’s just instinct sometimes.”

For him, that can mean using the time wisely, such as making his last shot with just six seconds to spare at a practice.

On practice and match days, team members don’t consume sugar or caffeine, which can affect their heart rate and movements enough to ruin a much-needed shot.

“It only takes one shooter to have one bad shot,” Snook said.

That’s why the team practices as often as possible.

“Shooting’s mostly mental,” Snook said. “The more they shoot, the more mentally prepared they become.”

He attributed their success to experience. The team that will compete at nationals features four seniors, all of whom have nicknames for which Snook is mostly responsible.

When Jessica Szaller joined the team as a junior, Snook dubbed her “Socks” on account of the colorful, knee-high socks she often wore.

Szaller said the name stuck, with students throughout the school now calling her that.

Of Snook’s leadership style she joked, “You get scared when you don’t shoot a 280.”

While the team shot at a practice last week, Snook sat at his desk with a red ball point pen adding up the points on each target.

A decorative grenade with “1” attached to its pin sat in front of him with “Complaint Dept. Take a Number” written across the front.

Despite the challenging atmosphere, it’s clear that the group has upmost respect for Snook and each other.

“We’re like our own little household,” Brandon Godwin said. “We support each other.”

The importance of family may run thicker for him. His sister Rebecca, a freshman, is the lone underclassman on the squad.

“It’s always this rivalry between us to see who can top the other,” he said. “But I’m proud of her. I never expected her to be this good this year.”

Each student had different reasons for joining the team, but all started with an interest in shooting.

Though the two girls have yet to decide if they want military careers, the three boys are set.

“I joined ROTC because of rifle team,” Mathis said. “I was going into the Marines anyway so I thought it’d be good to go ahead and get some experience.”

As the students practiced last week, a quote from former President Ronald Reagan graced the top of the room:

“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”