Major Frank Ryman has served tough duty as a United States Marine in Somalia, but nothing equaled the obligation he had to fulfill after the Indian River Junior ROTC air rifle team won the state tournament last week. Ryman agreed to doll up in his prettiest dress if his air rifle team won the state trophy.
“It’s all in good fun,” said Ryman. “I gave them my word and that is a fundamental part of this program. You learn about honor and obligation — all things you can apply in the outside world. It’s also really good for the school spirit — the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.”
Air rifle shooting has been a varsity sport at Indian River High School for three years now and has just recently been added as an Olympic sport. Several Indian River shooters earned top honors at the Junior Olympic state championship.
“We have all the same eligibility obligations as all the other sports and it is just as competitive,” said Ryman.
The sport is mentally and physically demanding, despite its appearances.
“What I like about shooting is that you don’t have to be a great athlete or physically really strong — anyone can compete,” said Sean O’Conner.
“Shooting is 30 percent physical and 70 percent mental,” explained Ryman. “We have a saying that we can either shoot a shot and either accept the shot or disregard it. You have to move past bad shots because it can affect your next shot.”
“It’s almost like meditation — you’re in your own little bubble,” said Erin Wood.
“It such a mentally calming sport,” said Scott Steverson.
Steverson won with the highest overall individual score in the state tournament. The match came down to splitting hairs as the judges were forced to go to the deep into the scorecards to determine the winner.
Woodbridge’s shooter and Steverson tied with Indian River was behind six points after two rounds of shooting. The scoring then goes to the shooters’ previous 10 targets, but both shooters tied yet again. Finally, the next 10 targets were scored and Steverson came out on top winning by five points. Steverson also won second place overall in the Stephen Decatur tournament — second place in the kneeling position and third place in the prone position.
Jeff Kerin also captured second place at the Junior Olympic State championship.
Shooting isn’t just for the fellas — Indian River has some talented ladies picking up the medals as well.
Erin Wood won the gold medal at the Junior Olympic state championships and took third place individual award at Stephen Decatur last month.
Tracy Truitt followed Wood, winning second place in the Junior Olympic state championship. Truitt shot a score of 267 out 400 shots.
“Anybody who shoots over 240 is scoring well,” said Ryman.
Truitt also won first place in the individual kneeling position at the Stephen Decatur last month.
“The first time I shot an air rifle I hit the bulls-eye. It was then I realized I had some talent, so I decided to sign up for the ROTC class this year,” said Truitt.
Jeneth Garza loves shooting so much that she has completely altered her schedule for the program.
“I decided not to play soccer because it would cut into my shooting time,” said Garza. She placed third in the state competition last week.
“I was really nervous and the (air) rifle gets heavy, but being in the class has helped my concentration,” said Garza.
Unfortunately for Indian River, Garza is moving to Texas after this year but, luckily for her, the school she is moving to is number one in the state in shooting.
Ryman is looking to expand and the program and hopefully provide his student’s opportunities to pursue their shooting after high school.
“Right now there are about 500 colleges and universities that have shooting as a varsity sport and there are some shooters here who could get a scholarship,” said Ryman.
Currently Ryman is looking into summer shooting camps, possibly in Ohio or Atlanta, where the civil marksmanship camp is held.
“I would definitely recommend taking the Junior ROTC class if someone has the time — it teaches you a lot, and it’s fun, too,” said Truitt.