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South Kitsap High School seniors shoot way to championships
Most students recognize their Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps peers marching in unison while presenting the colors.
But South Kitsap High School seniors Janine Cooney and Brooke Warner represent the program through a different kind of precision.
Cooney and Warner qualified in the Navy’s Area 13 region, which encompasses Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Japan, at the Marine Corps and Navy JROTC Service Championship, which began Thursday, in Salt Lake City.
The top placers from that event will advance to the National Air Rifle Championship. They are among 123 students from throughout the country to qualify for the championship.
Both fire .177-caliber pellets from compressed air rifles and earned their place at the national competition based on their scores at the Navy JROTC air-rifle postal competition.
Warner said she began shooting the air rifle when she joined JROTC as a sophomore. The first time she picked it up, Warner said she felt an “adrenaline rush,” but now she has come to value it.
“I can come here and shoot after a stressful day,” she said.
Cooney entered the program as a junior after hearing about the air rifle from a peer. As someone who suffers from ADHD, Cooney said shooting the air rifle has helped her focus.
“I thought I would shoot myself or someone else at first,” she said, laughing. “But it’s been a calming experience for me. I relax more.”
Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Brosnan, a nationally certified marksmanship instructor who runs South’s team, said shooting the air rifle from 33 feet to hit the 4-millimeter target from three positions — kneeling, offhand and stomach — is a challenge. He said the sport is “90 percent mental” in that it requires participants to do a mental check to relax all of their muscles before firing.
“It’s a huge amount of self-control,” Brosnan said.
While neither plans a future in the military, Cooney and Warner both hope to continue to shoot the air rifle after they graduate. While Warner will not pursue a military profession, she said the patience and leadership she has learned through JROTC will help her as she prepares for a pharmaceutical career next year at Olympic College.
“I used to be so shy I couldn’t talk with people,” said Warner, adding that she is confident enough that she will aim for a spot in the 2016 Olympics 10-meter air-rifle competition.
Cooney said she would like to pursue a military career, but cannot because she takes ADHD medication. After graduating from a four-year college, she hopes to attend a police academy and attempt to earn a position on a SWAT team.
Wherever she ends up, Cooney said the air rifle never will be too far from her grasp.
“I loved it from the first time I picked it up,” she said. “It’s one of the first things I’ve found that I do really well.”