Members of the Mississippi 4-H shooting teams are, from left, Audrey Pugh, Reagan Thornton, Sarah Rollins and Jacob Konrad.

Members of the Mississippi 4-H shooting teams are, from left, Audrey Pugh, Reagan Thornton, Sarah Rollins and Jacob Konrad. Submitted photo
Four Mississippi teens began a journey last summer which ended recently in Grand Island, Nebraska, and resulted in numerous individual and team awards.

Sarah Rollins (Rankin), Reagan Thornton (Leake), Jacob Konrad (Harrison), and Audrey Pugh (Newton), were competitors in the .22 pistol discipline of the 4-H State Shooting Sports Invitational in July 2018. Thornton lives in Neshoba County.

Each year, the four shooters with the highest qualifying scores are selected as the national team to represent Mississippi in the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Nebraska. At the end of the state competition, these four were assembled as the team, and began working to get ready for the national competition this June.

At nationals, the team competes in three events: slow fire, metallic silhouettes, and Camp Perry (rapid fire). They had their first practice together in September, 2018, and continued having practices together in the following months as often as schedules and weather allowed. National team coach Jeff Pugh, along with 4-H pistol coaches Tom Ganaan (Leake) and Wes Lewis (Newton), worked with the shooters to get them ready for their different events. After one final practice in June, the team headed for Nebraska.

The week of competition begins on Sunday afternoon with equipment check. Each competitor has a different pistol for each event, and each pistol is checked for various things such as trigger weight and overall gun weight. On Monday morning there is a coaches’ and competitors’ meeting, then practice for the first event, which is on Tuesday morning. The week follows that schedule, with practice each afternoon for the competitive event the following morning. The shooters are at the range by 7:30 each morning, and have a full day of competition and practice.

The week is not all work for the shooters. There is a teen social on Tuesday night, where the competitors meet, have fun, and trade state pins. On Thursday night, after the final event, the city of Grand Island opens the water park to the national teams. The Mississippi team enjoyed cookouts on the hotel patio a couple of nights, which attracted team members from other states who wanted a taste of southern sweet tea. The week was a great experience for the shooters and their families, and ended with some exciting results.

Individual awards are given to the top ten shooters, and team awards go to the top five state teams. Our shooters came back to Mississippi with numerous ribbons and medals. Sarah Rollins placed 8th in slow fire; Jacob Konrad placed 9th in silhouettes and 7th overall individual; Audrey Pugh placed 2nd in silhouettes and 2nd overall individual. The team placed 2nd in slow fire, 1st in silhouettes, 3rd in rapid fire, and was the 2nd overall team in the nation. The team was very pleased to be in the top three teams for every event, as well as overall. With the national competition done, three of the shooters are headed back to the state invitational at the end of this month and will possibly start the process all over again