South Panola Rifle Team National Competition

Published 10:48 am Friday, February 23, 2018


The South Panola High School Air Force JROTC rifle team claimed the 2018 National Rifle Championship Monday. The team, which won the Southeast Regional last weekend, eagerly awaited scores from the other regionals. South Panola finished with a total score of 4,246. The team closest was Clover High School of South Carolina who was 79 points behind. This was the largest margin of victory in the history of the AFJROTC National Rifle Championship. In addition, South Pnaola’s Nicholas Rudd finished as the No. 1 shooter in the Air Force. Team members include (l. to r.) Colonel Bob Mims, Anthony Cole, Breanna McGregor, Kayla Walker, Brian Hardy, Nick Rudd, Cam Cosby, Jason Robertson, Nikki Still, Thomas Harkins and Raven Hudson. See more coverage on Page A16.
Photo submitted

By Myra Bean
It has been a very joyous week for the South Panola Air Force JROTC rifle team as they realized a year-long or (maybe four-year-long) goal of earning a National Championship.
The South Panola football team is the only other sport in the county that has experienced that euphoric feeling of seeing a dream come true.
The competitive cheer squad comes close each year. However, the rifle team now knows what it feels like to come so close and finally get over the hump.
The last three years the team has been the national runner up losing by mere points. One time they lost by a single shot.
The team is coached by retired Air Force Colonel Bob Mims.
Of the 14 members of the team, 10 qualified to shoot for nationals: Anthony Cole, Breanna McGregor, Kayla Walker, Brian Hardy, Nick Rudd, Cam Cosby, Jason Robertson, Nikki Still, Thomas Harkins and Raven Hudson.
Rudd was the top shooter in the nation and Still, the only senior on the team, was the fifth best shooter in the nation.
Wednesday, Major Ed Butler, the Mississippi DOE JROTC director, presented challenge coins to the top five shooters on the national championship rifle team.
“He thanked them for being such an outstanding representative of South Panola High School and Mississippi on and off the rifle range and in the classroom,” Mims said.
Tuesday, Mims, Still and Rudd sat for an interview about their experiences being on the team and winning the national championship.
They shoot a high-end air rifle which shoots a 5.8 mm pellet at .177 caliber at 650 feet per second. The competitions are in the three positions of prone, kneeling and standing.
“Champions win in standing,” Mims said.
Still said there are some exercises they do to build up their core strength and endurance to be able to go through a two-day competition which is taxing. They shoot 600 rounds per competition.
Sometimes between the different position competitions, Rudd said he takes a nap to get rejuvenated.
At the national championship round, Rudd clearly had the top individual score. Still moved from seventh place to fifth.
After the team competition, the top eight shooters shoot for the top spot.
Though the national are over, the team will compete through the last weekend in June.
“It feels great to be a national champion because I was in eighth grade when South Panola got it. So when I moved up, I didn’t get anything. We tried every year. But now I am yes, I am graduating. I have a ring. It’s about tim,” Still said.
The new season starts August 1 and the team works and competes for 11 months.
“It takes a lot of hard work, lot of time, lot of effort, lot of desire to be there,” Mims said. “You can’t take it kind of halfway. Those guys quit. We started off with 20 who wanted to be shooters and now we are down to 14.”
The team practices three times a week, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the school’s cafeteria.
Sometimes on Wednesday if a meet is scheduled for the weekend.
They shot better than some of the bigger schools who practice five days a week.
This is not a sport where the team members can practice at home, according to Mims. They are in a controlled environment and have never had a negative incident.
Mims said this is an expensive sport and he would not be able to have the team without the Mississippi Chapter of the National Rifle Association who gives them a grant each year for firearms and ammunition.
As a reward for a shooter’s endurance, they can become National Distinguished Shooters. Still has achieved her gold medal as a distinguished shooter. She received the silver and gold her junior year.
Rudd has just been named a distinguished shooter this year, but he has not received his medallion yet.

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