By Rebecca LaFlure
Killeen Daily Herald
Retired Lt. Col. John Stanley, coach of the Killeen High School Roo Rifles, clears out the team's trophy case each year to make room for the next round of honors.
This year he hopes to add a first-place trophy from a national air rifle competition.
Team members will travel to Camp Perry, Ohio, Wednesday to compete against 25 schools in the U.S. Army JROTC Service National Championship. Last year the team won second place. Next week they plan to take first.
"We're going to take it this year," Travis Snow, a junior, said Thursday during the team's afternoon practice.
"This time we've been up at the facility so we know what to expect."
The students fire lead pellets at targets 10 meters away while positioned lying down, standing and kneeling. The students are each judged on accuracy and the team with the most points takes the title.
The students, who've been practicing since the summer, meet in the high school's indoor air rifle shooting range before, during and after school to perfect their positioning and aim.
"We practice all the time, every day," said junior Nick Noble, executive officer. "You can't master it, just keep improving. Some days you have a good day. Other days you have a bad one."
The high school shooting team has seven members, all in JROTC, and five will travel to compete in nationals. Each team member was hand picked by Stanley after a lengthy audition process.
The team qualified to compete in the tournament after firing a high score in a preliminary round.
Stanley credited its success to quality practice because "one bad shot can bring you from fourth place to eleventh place," he said.
The team won seventh place in the Junior Olympics in July, and senior Robert Rousey, the team captain, is ranked fifth in the nation based on performance in state and national competitions.
The members live and compete by a list of values Stanley posted in the shooting range: be strong, gracious, calm, team-oriented and encouraging.
"It teaches that you're going to make mistakes. You're human," said Stanley, who competes in adult air rifle competitions. "I hope they also live their lives this way."
Most of the shooters said they started their freshman year, and as they get older, became mentors to the incoming freshmen.
"Shooting is both physical and mental. We help each other out," Noble said. "We can win individual medals, but in the end, we want to win as a team."
The long practices can be tough for the high school students, but Snow said the students gain more from the team than good aim.
"We're not just a team," Snow said. "We're a family."
Contact Rebecca LaFlure firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHeducation.