CHURCH HILL — Two members of Volunteer High School’s NJROTC rifle team made Hawkins Co. proud as they competed at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the 29th annual American Legion Junior 3-position Air Rifle National Championships.
Upcoming Senior Jaden-Ann Fraser claimed the national title with a first-place finish, which earned her a 5,000 scholarship. Upcoming Sophomore Olivia Cattrell claimed third place and received a bronze medal.
In order to even compete in the National Championship, participants must first compete in a “postal” preliminary where shooters mail in their results. Fraser explained that more than 1,300 shooters from all over the nation took part in this year’s postal, and the top 30 shooters are chosen by judges from the American Legion to compete in the Nationals.
Those 30 are made up of two different classes: Sporter and Precision. Both Fraser and Cattrell competed in the Sporter category.
Kingsport’s American Legion Post 3 sponsored the girls so that they could travel to the competition.
“We got to shoot where Olympians practice and train for the Olympics,” Fraser told the Review. “That was an amazing thing in itself! If you took the stress of competition out of it, it was kind of like a little mini-vacation.”
The event lasted three days with two days of competition and one day of finals. By the third day, the 15 competitors in each category had been reduced to eight.
“The way the competition works, is it put all the shooters in scenarios we’d never been put in before,” Fraser said. “For instance, in a usual match, we shoot 3-by-20. It’s 20 shots in three different positions, so 60 shots total. At this match, we shot 120 shots instead of just 60. We did two competitions in one day—and that is a lot of shooting, especially if you’re not used to doing that.”
She went on to explain that there was no working air conditioning in the competition building, making it even more difficult to shoot for long periods of time.
“We had about four layers on, including two sweatshirts,” she said. “It was very intense. But, shooting where we do at Volunteer — we always shoot in the cafeteria because we don’t have an area of our own — the air conditioner was never on. So, we are used to the high heat, but some people couldn’t take it.
Though Fraser explained that shooting at VHS with no air conditioning was frustrating at the time, it ended up giving the two girls an advantage over other competitors.
“You could see, throughout the competition, people getting more and more tired,” Cattrell told the Review. “The heat kept getting to them more, but me and Jaden were just like ‘we shoot in this all the time.’ So, we were completely used to it, and, with the amount that we shoot, we were really prepared for this match.
Fraser has trained since her freshman year
This is not Fraser’s first competition, as she has been involved with the VHS Air Rifle team since her freshman year and won numerous awards for her marksmanship.
“I feel like I’ve been training for this match since my freshman year,” Fraser said. “The reason I say this is because Chief Greear is very diligent in his training process. He makes sure we’re exposed to every element we can be. We shoot in the most strenuous practice cycles so we can prepare for pretty much any form of competition.”
She has shot at several local matches through Kingsport’s American Legion Post 3, though she didn’t find out about the American Legion Nationals until her sophomore year. She admitted that, at first, she was pretty intimidated by this level of competition.
“At that age, in all honesty, I thought that there was no way I could do that,” she said. “But, Chief Greear told me — and I remember this vividly — I’m not sending you this year, but one of these years, you’re going to get there, and you’ll be surprised at what you do.”
Both girls credit much of their success to the guidance provided by Greear.
“Chief can see stuff in us that we don’t see until much later,” Fraser said.
Fraser hasn’t decided exactly where her path will take her after high school, but she does know one thing for sure.
“The only thing I can guarantee about my path after high school is that I will be shooting collegiately with the NCAA,” she said. “Whether that takes me to a military academy — fingers crossed — or a regular university, I will be shooting after high school.”
Cattrell and her newly discovered talent
Cattrell, on the other hand, is very new to the team. As a first-year shooter, Cattrell beat numerous others who have been training longer than she has even been in high school.
“I remember, back when we first got this postal, I wasn’t originally supposed to shoot it,” Cattrell said. “It was my freshman year, so I was just starting out. I thought ‘there’s no way I can go compete with the top 15 in the nation.’ But, we actually had a girl who wasn’t able to shoot the postal.”
Cattrell was chosen to take her spot.
“I remember the first thing Chief said to me about it was, ‘Olivia, this postal is going to take you great places,’” she said. “I was really doubtful about it at the time, but I ended up making it through the postals and was fourth place going in (to the national championship) and came out third. I am very pleased with that.”
Though she has not made any official decisions, Cattrell, too, is interested in collegiate shooting.