Alex Coyle signs

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 11, 2011

South Panola High School senior Alex Coyle this week became the first Air Force JROTC student in the country to sign with a Division 1 college marksmanship team. At a ceremony at SPHS Wednesday morning, Coyle announced her intention to accept the scholarship offer of the University of Mississippi. Shown with the athlete is South Panola’s JROTC marksmanship coach, Master Sgt. Will Robinson. The Panolian photo by Rita Howell

Coyle signs with UM rifle

By Rita Howell

Fans of South Panola High School sports are accustomed to seeing local guys sign with Division 1 colleges. South Panola has sent football players to the likes of Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Nebraska.

On Wednesday, however, it was a girl who became the latest SPHS athlete to accept a Division 1 scholarship.

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Senior Alex Coyle made history when she accepted the offer of the University of Mississippi to become a member of the women’s rifle team. Coyle is the first Air Force JROTC cadet in the country to earn a Division 1 scholarship in shooting sports.

At a press conference in the SP media center, crowded with almost 200 of Coyle’s fellow JROTC cadets, Coyle held up a red Ole Miss t-shirt to signal her choice to sign a letter of intent to join the Ole Miss team.

“This means I get to go to college,” Coyle said before the ceremony. “It means I can take the steps to get to the next level, to get an education and prepare for a career.”

The young woman has distinguished herself with an outstanding record in two years of shooting with the South Panola JROTC team. She is the current points leader in the Mississippi/Louisiana JROTC Rifle League and has not placed lower than second in air rifle competitions this season.

Last year she received an at-large bid to the Armed Forces JROTC National Championships.
In October she was a silver medalist at an air rifle competition at the Civilian Marksmanship Program South Headquarters in Anniston, Ala.

Ole Miss rifle head coach Valerie Boothe,  commenting on the Ole Miss sports Web site, announced Coyle’s signing.

“We are very excited about Alex joining our program,” said Boothe, a former National Rifle Coach of the Year. “She is the best in the state and the first homegrown talent we have had in several years. We can’t wait to see what she can do on this level.”

South Panola’s JROTC director, Col. Bob Mims, in introducing Coyle at Wednesday’s signing ceremony, described her as “an outstanding student and an outstanding person…she has wonderful grades and wonderful athletic ability.”

“I am proud of Alex,” he said. “With her drive and determination I have no doubt she will succeed.”

Also in attendance at the ceremony were her parents, Sara and Chris Hill, Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey, and the SP rifle team coach, Master Sgt. Will Robinson, and his wife, Robin, who serves as the “team mom.”

As she signed the paperwork to make her decision official, someone in the crowd said “Hotty Toddy,” the Ole Miss cheer.

According to her resume on the Ole Miss Web site, Coyle is currently the vice commander of a 196 cadet corps, and is in line to assume command of the unit in December. Coyle has served as a flight commander, operations commander, personnel officer, color guard commander, rifle tandem drill team commander, senior leader of her marksmanship team and was inducted as a member of the National JROTC Kitty Hawk Honor Society.

Coyle was also distinguished as a graduate of the Louisiana Tech University JROTC Summer Leadership School in 2009, and this past summer was selected for the 2011 Pilot Senior Cadet Flight program at Louisiana Tech University.

Coyle holds the Bronze Civilian Marksmanship Badge, the Leadership Ribbon, the Physical Fitness Assessment Award, the Joe G. Hamblin Award, the Sons of the American Revolution Award, the American Legion Award and the American Veterans Award. She is also active in community service having volunteered over 6,000 hours since her freshman year.

A member of the South Panola marching band, Coyle has participated in the state band clinic four years and was selected assistant drum major last year.

Her plans for the future?

Finish out a stellar high school career, earn a spot on the 2012 Junior Olympics rifle team, and prepare to enter Ole Miss. She said she’ll study psychology and criminal justice for a career in law enforcement, with a goal of one day becoming special agent with the FBI.