CHURCH HILL — The school year may be over, but there's no summer vacation for the Volunteer High School NJROTC rifle team, although there will be quite a bit of traveling.
That's thanks to some nifty shooting in spring qualifiers that propelled them into the National Junior Olympics, which will be held June 28 at Camp Perry, Ohio.
Then the team will compete in the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) National Air Rifle Championship on June 29, also at Camp Perry.
During the week of July 23-28, rising senior Jaden-Ann Fraser and sophomore Olivia Cattrell will be two of only 15 shooters in the United States who have qualified to compete in the American Legion Nationals at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
With school out for summer, the team has converted the school cafeteria into a shooting range, where the Times-News met up with it during an afternoon practice session last week.
"Even though our school year is over, Volunteer is still going to go hard,” said Fraser, who earned her fifth national title this past March. "People might think it's over, but it's just beginning. It's not summer vacation for us."
The secret to their success is no secret. They just practice really hard.
"We're dedicated to what we do," Fraser said. "What really weeds out good shooters from decent shooters is just how committed are you willing to be to your craft here. It's not the easiest thing to sacrifice all the time. But when you do it really pays off, and you can see that on paper through our numbers."
Fraser added, "We usually practice about 10 hours per week, but with competition coming up probably a little more. Usually we break up our practice schedule into a 60 shot standing and 40 shot kneeling. A 60 shot standing is about 75 minutes, which will roll into a 40 minute kneeling. Both are very tasking on the body, but you get used to it the more you do it. That's what separates us from everybody else, is our standing ability."
In January, the team earned its second consecutive victory in the Army National Air Rifle Championship at Fort Benning, Ga., anchored by second and third place individual performances by Fraser and Cattrell, respectively. That was the team’s fourth national title overall
In March, Fraser won the JROTC National National Air Rifle individual championship in Anniston, Ala., against cadets from all branches of service from across the nation. It was Fraser's fifth individual national title.
Then in the CMP Regionals Championship last month, also in Anniston, the team placed third overall to qualify for the June 29 national competition. Individually, Fraser had an "off day" by placing placed fifth overall, while Cattrell placed sixth.
Cattrell wasn't a shooter before she joined the rifle team, yet in her freshman year she has joined elite ranks, earning top national ranking in multiple tournaments, as well as an elite top-15 invitation to the American Legion Nationals.
At the beginning of the school year, she didn't foresee achieving this level of success.
"I thought it would take a lot of work to get to that point," Cattrell said. "It was a goal of mine that I had, but I sure didn't think it would come this quickly."
What's her goal for your three big competitions this summer?
"I'm hoping to be on the top somehow," Cattrell said.
Nicolas Luksha, another rising sophomore, is working hard to become a part of future national championships with Cattrell, while rising seniors Cassidy "Booch" Hawkins and Hunter Drinnon want to end their already stellar careers with more national titles in 2019-20.
Drinnon admits that he has become spoiled by the team’s victories, but he doesn't feel pressure to maintain the same level of success.
"It's just the feeling of needing to (win)," Drinnon said. "I would like to do this, and I need to do this."
Drinnon added, "We're motivated all the time. We're not a sport that will go a certain amount of time and then stop and then come back the next year. We just go year-round, so we're always pushing."