More than 500 young­sters head to range for BB gun com­pe­ti­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - ASH­TON ELEY

ROGERS — More than 500 chil­dren and teenagers from 17 states worked in some last-minute prac­tice Satur­day, warm­ing up for the 52nd an­nual Daisy BB Gun Na­tional Cham­pi­onship Match, the largest na­tional 5-me­ter BB gun match in the na­tion.

Sounds sim­i­lar to “snap pop­per” fire­works filled a John Q. Ham­mons Cen­ter con­fer­ence room serv­ing as a shoot­ing range. Coaches worked with com­peti­tors be­tween the age of 8 and 15, who fired Daisy air ri­fles at a tar­get 5 meters away from four shoot­ing po­si­tions: stand­ing, sit­ting, kneel­ing and prone.

Jen­nifer Com­mer­ford, 15, warmed up with her John­son County, Kan., 4-H Ri­fle Club.

She started com­pet­ing three years ago and her mother, Chris Com­mer­ford said she could not have been more sur­prised. How­ever, Jen­nifer is far from alone; it’s about a 60-40 boy to girl ra­tio at the match, said Lawrence Tay­lor, di­rec­tor of public re­la­tions for Daisy Out­door Prod­ucts.

“Ac­tu­ally, more girls end up get­ting medals. They tend to be more pre­cise and dis­ci­plined,” he said.

While it isn’t as phys­i­cal of a sport as many, Tay­lor said it’s a lot like yoga, hav­ing to hold a pose and be com­pletely steady. Daisy CEO Keith Hig­gin­botham said it’s all

about men­tal pre­pared­ness and prac­tice.

“It’s been a great op­por­tu­nity for Jen­nifer to learn how to fo­cus and re­ally ap­ply her­self and stick things out. It’s been huge,” Com­mer­ford said.

Com­peti­tors are judged on shoot­ing ac­cu­racy with awards go­ing to in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance and to­tal team score much like a track meet. How­ever, gun safety is a pri­mary fo­cus at the cham­pi­onship. Twenty per­cent of each com­peti­tor’s score comes from a writ­ten test on gun han­dling and safety which they took Satur­day.

“You can place sec­ond in ev­ery event and max out the test and win the match. It’s a very im­por­tant part of the cham­pi­onship,” said Clyde Furr, match ref­eree with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

About 3,000 peo­ple flooded the room dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony Satur­day night, ea­ger to cheer on com­peti­tors in the next two days of com­pe­ti­tion.

This year, 71 teams, each with five mem­bers and two al­ter­nates, who qual­i­fied in their state will be com­pet­ing in the na­tional cham­pi­onship, which has been held in Rogers since 2010 and held by Daisy each year since 1966.

Jen­nifer will be com­pet­ing Cham­pion Shoot­ers as the des­ig­nated mem­ber of her team. Her first lo­cal com­pe­ti­tion she met­aled in ev­ery event, she said, and then she was hooked.

“It’s just re­ally fun and ex­cit­ing, she said. “It’s a com­pe­ti­tion but it’s a friendly com­pe­ti­tion, and you get to know peo­ple from all over.”

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Shoot­ing coach Kamie St. Pierre (cen­ter) of Louisiana talks Satur­day with con­tes­tant Katie Swan­son dur­ing prac­tice for the Daisy Na­tional BB Gun Cham­pi­onship Match.

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF

Shoot­ing coaches Kamie St. Pierre (left) of Louisiana and Ma­son Haynes check the weight of a BB gun Satur­day dur­ing prac­tice for the Daisy Na­tional BB Gun Cham­pi­onship Match in Rogers. Guns can weigh no more than 6 pounds.

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