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East County Tuesday, May 3, 2022 3 months ago

Braden River High JROTC rifle team earns first state championship title

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Hard work, dedication and Pop-Tarts lead to the rifle team's success at the state championship.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

The air rifle team members of the Braden River High Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp figured out how to put a little more pop into their shooting scores.

The Pirates eat Pop-Tarts for breakfast.

Although JROTC instructor James Bradin knows Pop-Tarts are high in sugar, he has seen the results firsthand as his students arrive three times a week at the school at 5:30 a.m. for practice and need a little something to jump start the day.

Braden River High School JROTC rifle team members Stuart Macaulay, Christian Bell, Nathan Walmsley, Adanna Wharton and Elayna Andrews celebrate their state championship title.

Stuart Macaulay, a junior and next year’s rifle team captain, said he plans to use the s’mores and cookies and cream Pop-Tarts flavors again next season after seeing his teammates win the Army JROTC Florida State Marksmanship Championship April 23.

Obviously, it was a lot more than breakfast that led to the Pirates' first state title.

“It means a lot, especially as a senior and the team captain,” Elayna Andrews said. “This was my last competition ever, and we ended on a great note. I’m glad I was here for that.”

Nathan Walmsley, a sophomore, said his teammates had great chemistry and consistently shot well throughout the season as they built toward the state tournament.

Bradin said the highest the team placed in previous championships was fourth. He said everyone up and down the lineup was a good shooter.

“We’ve been blessed this year with really good shooters," he said.

Although the team hadn't won a state title before, the Pirates grew in confidence as they kept winning during the regular season.

“Palmetto (High School) has been our (main) competition all year and we were watching their scores while trying to watch ours and see, ‘Oh, we need to shoot this in order to beat them,’” Andrews said. “It was pretty exciting when we beat them.”

Walmsley said hard work and dedication made the difference.

“You have to have high standards for yourself, and you have to be hard on yourself,” Walmsley said. “You can’t be taking every day light. You have to be mad at yourself even when you shoot decently and think 'I could have shot better.'”

Adanna Wharton, a sophomore, said she knows there always is room for improvement. 

“You need to continue to tell yourself you can do better and you will do better,” Wharton said. “Even when you shoot your (personal record) for one of your positions or just your overall score, you can’t be satisfied with that or else you’re going to stay there or go lower.”

Andrews is the only member from this year’s team who will not be returning next year.  

Walmsley said the team is going to put in the work to try to win another state championship.

Knowing the team’s capabilities, Macaulay plans to raise the standards for the team next year. 

That’s where the Pop-Tarts could come into play, although he hasn’t decided exactly what scores his teammates will need to get in order to earn a s’mores or cookies and cream Pop-Tart.

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