CAMP ZAMA, Japan -- A line of cadets have their sights fixed on their targets, each squaring their aim and breathing out before pulling the trigger. The distinct "Pop! Pop! Pop!" of a volley of air rifle rounds pierces the quiet of the scene.
The Zama American Middle High School Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps battalion placed second in the annual Pacific East District Three-Position Air Rifle Marksmanship Match, which they hosted Dec. 7 and 8.
Thirty-six cadets from three schools, also including Nile C. Kinnick High School from U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka, and Yokota High School, participated in the competition at both the varsity and junior varsity level. ZAMHS finished with a score of 1728, coming in just short of the winning Kinnick battalion's 1810.4. Yokota finished third with a score of 1698.4.
The varsity match was a 3x20 format, meaning the competitors fired 20 shots from three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. The junior varsity match was 3x10 format.
In addition to ZAMHS placing second, one of the school's varsity competitors, Cadet Maj. Ian Tan, a senior, had an impressive individual performance, taking second place in the overall shooter category with a score of 492.9.
Cadet Lt. Col. Daisy Dalat, a ZAMHS senior and battalion commander, lauded her team of six varsity and five junior varsity shooters, saying all the practicing they did translated to a great result when it came time for the match.
"Our team has been making improvements little by little all year," said Daisy. "Being in this competition provided our team with a good opportunity to observe how other teams are doing, and to get advice from them."
Cadet Toni Ludwig, a junior at Kinnick High School, was the top overall shooter with a score of 552. Toni said she has aspirations to compete in rifle events in the Olympics, and events like the air rifle match are the first step toward reaching that goal.
Trying to focus on the target downrange while on the firing line with other cadets can be a nerve-racking experience, Toni said, but she overcame that by not stressing herself out and focusing her mind on her objective.
"Rifle shooting is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," said Toni. "What's going on in your head will definitely affect how you do on the range, but my teammates played a big part in keeping everyone's spirits up."
Retired Lt. Col. Douglas Fields, a Zama JROTC instructor, said his cadets came into the match highly motivated to compete, and that motivation showed in their performance.
"I couldn't be more proud of everyone," said Fields. "No matter what, they are all winners."