There are seven shooters that are allowed to shoot on a team that goes to the Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match - five shooters whose scores count for the team, and two alternates. The alternates are there in case one of the top five can't shoot. Then, they could step in and shoot. Otherwise, the alternates shoot in their own category and there scores don't count for the team total. If you are chosen to shoot as a regular team member, you have to skip a year before you can go to "Nationals" again. You can shoot at Nationals up through the year that you turn 15 years old. Then you age out.
John Allen shot as an alternate his first year, and was invited to go back again the next year as an alternate. The third year we skipped. He probably could have gone as a regular team member but then he wouldn't have gotten to shoot during the year he turned 15. We thought that would be his best year so we chose to skip that year but worked hard practicing both at home and going to the range at Bend of the River once or twice a week. Strategy also comes into play when thinking things through. Many of his chief competitors would be going to Nationals that year and therefore couldn't compete the next year at Nationals or compete for the regular awards at the State match the next year.
John Allen was quickly working his way up the ranks, and it looked like his final year shooting BB gun would be a big year for him. There was just one problem - nerves. The first year we went to Nationals as an alternate there was no pressure. He was a fairly new shooter and he exceeded all of his goals. The next year, however, he was experienced and was expected to do well in the alternate category. We tried not to put pressure on him, but, he knew what he could do and he set his goals high and put the pressure on himself.
I'm afraid that I didn't help either. Although I tried not to put pressure on him, I'm a analyzer and a statistic person. I'm forever looking at scores from the past and "number crunching". "Look John Allen," I might say. "Last year's bronze medallist in kneeling scored a 96. You're average is a 93. If we can bring your average up three points..." You get the picture.
Needless to say, he didn't do well at that year's National competition, and, then, didn't do as well as expected in the next year's State match. He began to get the mindset that he couldn't do well in major competitions. At practice he would shoot well, but when it came to a major meet, he seemed to let his nerves get the better of him.
His last year of shooting BB guns, the year that he turned 15, was a great year at practice. He was doing just as well, if not better, than most of the team. He was the one that was in line to win the state competition. Unfortunately his nerves kicked in again. The morning of the pre-state match he woke up extremely ill. He ended up skipping the match and I took Joshua to shoot (more on him tomorrow).
Two weeks later was the State match. He woke up with a quesy stomach but, after many pep-talks and much prayer (we always pray before he shoots each position), he was feeling pretty good. It didn't hurt that he had earned the Distinguished Expert award, the highest award that you can earn in BB shooting, during the week in between. That also helped to boost his confidence. He actually shot well. In fact, he was the top shooter for the match and out shot everyone. Unfortunately, shooting is not everything when it comes to BB gun competitions. There's also the dreaded test on everything from gun safety to rules.
He had a respectable score on the test and was still in the lead when it came to the shootoff. I mentioned the shootoff yesterday. It's where the top eight shooters shoot ten final shots one at a time in the standing position and, after each shot, someone reads the scores off. A match can be won or lost at the shootoff. John Allen did well, but not as well as the second place shooter, Julia. She actually came back and tied John Allen after 10 shots. That's the first time that had happened in Tennessee state history.
They searched the rule book and decided that the tie would be broken between the two by a sudden death shootoff. One shot at a time until someone shot a better shot than the other person. The first shot was a tie - they both shot 8's. Then, on the second shot, John Allen shot an 8 but Julia shot a 9. So, John Allen ended up in second place. They do have a special award, though, for the person who had the best shooting score, minus the test so John Allen won that award as well as second place. But, he proved he could conquer his nerves!
Next, was air rifle. Before I talk about that, though, tomorrow I'm going to blog about Joshua and shooting. Can a child on the autism spectrum actually be trusted to shoot a gun? Find out tomorrow!