Words by Connie Lewis Leonard
Photography by Layth Taylor
The students that make up Granbury High School’s Rifle Club are learning important life lessons like responsibility, respect, safety, and determination. As if that’s not enough to be proud of, the team also competes with the top shooters nationally and internationally.
Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or MCJROTC for short, may conjure up images of screaming, yelling, and running. GHS Rifle Club shatters that mold. The ten girls and two boys who comprise the elite group want people to know that the physically and emotionally demanding sport is also fun. While many may assume it to be a male sport, girls dominate the team because they tend to mature at a younger age and are often better able to meet the demanding mental concentration required. At it’s core, MCJROTC is all about discipline and safety.
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Casey (Ret.) has served as the Senior Marine Instructor for the past six years. While attending Caprock High School in Amarillo, he participated as a member of the rifle team and color guard. After graduating high school, he attended college on a rifle scholarship and eventually graduated with a B.S. in Education from West Texas A&M.
Lt. Col. Casey honorably served the Marines on foreign and home soil, receiving numerous awards and medals. He retired in May of 2012 to take the position as Senior Marine Instructor with GISD. He enjoys spending his spare time with his wife and three children. For him, it’s all about the kids. He explained, “I love seeing the cadets grow in a sport that I love.” And grow they have, both in their sport and as individuals.
All cadets exemplify the core values of honor, courage, and commitment as they develop leadership skills, self-discipline, and responsibility.
Ninth grader M’Leah Lambdin said, “As a child growing up with two extremely athletic older sisters, I never really had a group I fit into.” Then her grandfather taught her to shoot. “The second my finger pulled the trigger, I knew I had found what I loved. Being on the rifle team forces you to be responsible. When everyone is on break, we’re practicing, and there’s nothing more rewarding than proving our hard work is seen when we place at matches.” She competed with The International Team in Bristol, IN.
Allison Henry, a sophomore, said, “Shooting offers so many opportunities from simply satisfaction to scholarships. Whenever I qualified for the Junior Olympics as a freshman, I was overwhelmed with excitement. This was the match that really opened my eyes to my potential in the sport. While I was at the Olympic Training Center, I had the privilege of meeting other high school and collegiate athletes. I also had the chance to work with Matt Emmons, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and to meet the 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, Ginny Thrasher.” Allison’s experiences have led her to set some exciting goals for herself, “I’ve set my sights on making the podium at the 2024 Paris Olympics”, she says.
Junior, Makenzie Sheffield said, “The ultimate goal for any person that wants to do well in their sport is to get to the highest point, which for shooters is the Olympics”. But she knows it won’t be easy, “In order to get where I want to be in life, I have to work for it—that’s how I was raised. You can achieve so much more by perfecting the little things that lead up to the big outcome you are wanting, because if you try to focus on just the outcome, you will miss a lot of important ‘little details’ that help you achieve the goal”.
Brittney Pinckard, a senior, said of the NRA Nationals/International Team, “I learned a lot from the range officers, match directors, other shooters, parents, as well as myself. There is a lot to take away from others to form your own preparation and match routine”. Being on the Rifle Team has taught her some valuable life lessons on perseverance, “What you do in shooting applies to almost everything you do in life. If you take a bad shot, you can chose to let it affect you the rest of the match, or you can move on and do the best you can with what you have left. It’s all about making critical decisions and improving yourself mentally”.
One of the two young men on the team, Jakob Rankin, a junior, said, “Some benefits and rewards of being on the rifle team are the opportunities to travel and meet people. I’ve had the privilege to shoot at the Civilian Marksmanship Program South Range in Alabama; Camp Perry, Ohio; the TCU Rifle Range and the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Also, our team was given a tour of the Murray State Rifle Facilities by head Rifle Coach Alan Lollar. Another benefit is physical fitness. Endurance is required in shooting a simple 40-shot standing match, and especially in 60-shot standing matches and 3x20 matches (20 shots in Prone, Standing and Kneeling).”
The core missions of the MCJROTC have clearly made an impression on senior Trinity Hathaway. She explained, “I’ve learned a lot over four years being on the rifle team: Things don’t always turn out the way you planned. There are no shortcuts to success. I’ve known hardship in my shooting career. I have questioned myself as an athlete. I stand moving forward, growing stronger. I will never forget the frustrating days, for they have made me better on and off the range. I want to thank my coach, my teammates and friends, for they have molded me into the shooter I am. I will make them proud and will never give less than my best.”
Freshman Andrea Puga is looking forward to her future on the team, “Being on the Rifle Team has been a fun experience. The opportunity to shoot with my team, which I see as a family, makes me happy. As a member on the team, I will be facing a lot of challenges throughout the journey, such as learning how to focus and concentrate, going against other teams, going to finals and trying to be the best I can. Hopefully this will help me reach my goal in the future by getting a scholarship to college and making my parents proud of me and my accomplishments.”
Elizabeth Plecity, a junior, has been active in Girl Scouts since age five when she started as a Daisy. She is currently working on her gold star project (Girl Scouts’ highest award). Elizabeth danced competitively for eight years. In January, 2016, she was invited to join the precision shooting team. She said farewell to dance and hello to the Rifle Team! Elizabeth practices every day. She is registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and hopes to shoot on a collegiate level with her eye on the 2024 Olympics. After high school, Elizabeth would like to major in criminal justice, commission into the Marine Corps and eventually work at Homeland Security.
For many of the students, their rifle team days are far from over. Kelcy McGrath said, “I have known since my freshman year that I wanted to pursue and take rifle seriously. Around the end of my sophomore year, I really started looking at schools to narrow down where I wanted to go and what I was looking for in an education. Murray State University stuck out and had everything I wanted. With Lt. Col. Casey’s help, I was able to take an official visit to Murray State, where I verbally committed to the coach of the rifle team for the next four years of my career. Their team is currently ranked third in the NCAA.”
Sophomore Clarissa Layland has gained valuable life skills on the team, “Being a Rifle Team member has more benefits than most people might think. You learn how to solve problems on your own. In football, if an athlete is having a bad day, the coach can yell from the sidelines to give advice. In shooting, coaching on the line is against the rules, so if the athlete doesn’t come off the line, their coach cannot do anything. Getting off the line is a hassle, so it is much easier to fix the problem you are having by yourself. It teaches you to work through everything without getting frustrated or annoyed.”
First year shooter Angel Mosco, a freshman, said, “I joined the team because I want to prove to people that what we do is really a challenge for us. I have enjoyed the few months I’ve been on the team. It has shown me great confidence and many ways to challenge myself as a person. I hope that within these next few years what I have accomplished on the team will bring me to getting a scholarship for college and take me on a successful journey.”
Although the students certainly are maturing as individuals through their experiences on the rifle team, they also appreciate their teammates and Lt. Col. Casey, who they say is a great teacher who inspires and encourages his students. Peyton Smith said, “I have had a lot of fun shooting in matches and practices. I shot sporter rifles. Then I was introduced into the precision rifles. Without my team and Lt. Col. Casey, none of this would have happened. I thank them all for welcoming me onto the team, which is one of the best experiences I have had. We are all like family, helping and companionship, and that’s the most important thing to have within a team. We all laugh and have a good time while we shoot and work on the things to make us better shooters.”