ANNISTON, AL. — Hundreds, if not thousands of hours of practice have honed the sharpshooting skills of Port Angeles freshman Cheyenne Maggard who competes in precision air rifle and .22 smallbore shooting contests around the state and the U.S.
Maggard is currently in Anniston, Ala. competing in precision air rifle at the Navy JROTC Service Marksmanship Championships today and Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to shooting in a different environment,” Maggard said en route to the event. “I’ve never shot in a NJROTC competition at that level, so I am excited to experience that and to shoot with some different shooters and get to know them.”
Maggard became the first cadet in the history of Port Angeles High School’s Roughrider Company to qualify for the Service Marksmanship Championships, qualifying for the event by recording a score of 287 out of 300 while shooting in standing, kneeling and prone positions at targets 10 meters (about 33 feet) away.
“Her dedication to all aspects of shooting has inspired and raised the standards for marksmanship for Roughrider Company, said Port Angeles’ naval science instructor Senior Chief Justin Beck. “She has become a leader on our team in only a few short months, which is remarkable as a freshmen and we are fortunate to have her as part our team.”
An air rifle is a lightweight firearm — similar to a pellet gun — that can weigh no more than 5.5 kilograms (a bit over 12 pounds) in which the propulsive force is provided by gas or compressed air. They fire small 4.5-millimeter rounds made of lead or other soft material.
Maggard is a seasoned veteran, having started shooting along with her dad, Brent Maggard, at age 5.
She’s competed in numerous 4-H shooting contests with the Clallam County 4-H program and she is a member of Peninsula Rifle & Pistol Club Junior Team and Poulsbo Sportsman’s Club’s Junior Rifle Team.
But she wasn’t always so focused on the sport at the start.
“When I started shooting, I didn’t really want to do it, I wanted to play soccer instead,” Maggard said. “Dad said to try it out for a year and I began to love it.”
“We have a pretty big piece of property, so we can shoot around our house. I started out shooting balloons which was pretty fun.”
Maggard said she’s gained confidence and experience through the sheer number of shooting competitions she’s participated in, helping her handle nervous moments.
“When I started shooting I was very nervous, I wouldn’t eat actually. I had trouble because I was so nervous. I Just went to as many competitions as I could, continued to get better and got more comfortable with the environment.
“You have to shoot a lot, shoot at different places and to get comfortable with everything.”
And Maggard said she has to trust and refer to her shot plan, a step-by-step check list for firing a shot, from shouldering the rifle to follow through.
“I practice my shot plan every day that I shoot,” Maggard said.
“In standing position I look at my feet, I see if I’m lined up properly, I look at my rifle to see if I have it placed properly on my shoulder. I run through every step for each position, squeeze the trigger and shoot the shot.”
Maggard said she tells herself “to relax, breathe and have fun.”
She also envisions an agricultural pest, not a target when she aims.
“I don’t see a target, I see a prairie dog,” Maggard said. “I go with my family to Montana on vacation and we go to a farmer’s property and shoot prairie dogs.”
Prairie dogs are considered an agricultural pest by the Montana Department of Agriculture.
Maggard said she considers the sport a fun activity, one that has become a bit of a daddy-daughter hobby.
But she was quick to point out that her mom Meghan Maggard and dad are “both are a big part of this experience.”
Maggard said she has learned how to dedicate herself to a task, to live life fully and has gained mental focus from shooting.
“I think about shooting when I am taking a test in school. It helps me focus on everything that I do.”
And she may be able to pursue shooting sports at the college level.
A total of 31 schools ranging from NCAA Division I powerhouses like West Virginia, Texas Christian and Kentucky, to National Junior College Athletic Associations field women’s college rifle teams.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]