Stillness, deep concentration and tireless repetition may not sound like the strengths of a typical teenager.
Those are the qualities that Killeen High School’s Junior ROTC rifle team members carefully cultivated over the past six years leading to a recent national championship.
This year’s team of 10 student shooters, four making up the traveling team, captured the U.S. Army National Air Rifle Championship in Anniston, Ala.
Now, the Killeen teens are setting their sights on an even greater title.
The four members of the traveling team are preparing to return to Alabama on March 21-24 to compete against the best teams in the Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Killeen High School senior Todd Mazur won the individual championship, making him the national champion among JROTC Army units.
Juniors Richard Moebius and Aaron Silva and sophomore Trenton Wiles make up the traveling team. All finished in the top 15 in the nation.
“It was fun. It’s something we’ve been working for all year,” Mazur said. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Rifle competition is mentally grueling. You don’t have to be strong and fast, but you must be able to block out distraction and concentrate, said Lt. Col. John Stanley, KHS JROTC instructor.
“The key is focus,” Stanley said. “You can only think about one thing at a time — you have to leave a lot outside.”
Rifle team is a Roos tradition that dates to the opening of the campus in 1964, but it was about six years ago that the team began training seriously to compete.
Students decided they wanted to reach the Army championship. The past four years, the team has finished in second or third place. This year they won it in a landslide.
“They just clicked from the beginning,” Stanley said. “From the beginning (of the two-day event) no one could catch us.” The KHS team won the national event by 69 points.
They compete in standing, prone and kneeling positions in a timed, adjudicated trial like Olympics marksmanship.
Stanley said his most committed shooters, including national champion Mazur, work practice into their daily lives, finding items to hold like a rifle and doing homework in the prone position.
Mazur arrives at school at 6:50 a.m., practices until 8:30, attends school until dismissal at 4:05 and practices some more until 5:30. He does homework, and then goes to work alongside his mother at a Fort Hood commissary, sometimes to midnight.
Mazur said shooting helps him relieve stress and he hopes to make it part of a future military career as an Army Ranger.
“I plan on pursuing this throughout life as a hobby or career to challenge myself,” he said. “Col. Stanley tells us you never master it and I believe that.”