Fort Mill Times

Rifle squad hits the target against national competition

The Nation Ford High School Marine Corps JROTC rifle team has always been one of the nation’s best, but this year stepped their game up significantly.

It’s a labor of love, with up to six practices in some weeks and dedication and perseverance needed, but this year’s Nation Ford team displayed all of the skills that put them consistently among the nation’s best.

“I’m impressed with the team members’ dedication to their sport,” coach Sean Mulcahy said.

“I’m an unrelenting coach. I’m hard on them, and some of the kids quit and I understand why. The kids that made it and continue to shoot have put in tons of work. I have very demanding schedules, with weekly practices and sometimes twice a day. The winners are the ones who know how to prepare. It’s a Friday night and their friends are going out, but they come to shooting practice because their coach says they should. That’s the will to prepare that they have, and not everyone has that. That’s what I’m amazed at. These kids listened well and have a will to prepare to win.”

And they’ve had plenty of success.

Entering the summer, the Falcons had already set four national records, won two national championships as a team and finished second in two others, but this summer they upped the ante.

Nation Ford was absolutely dominant at their first national championship this summer, NRA Championships in Centerville, Va.

Levi Carlson was crowned the national champion of that event, but there were Nation Ford shooters lining the leader board.

Two Falcons teams qualified, and they finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Carlson took first overall, Morgan Tench placed second, Marcus Stallings was third, William Jaeger took fourth, Blake Daniels finished sixth, Allison Reed was seventh, Deonte Hayes played eighth and Preston Jaeger finished ninth in the country.

“They did very, very well,” Mulcahy said.

“I think part of it was it was the first week after school was out and a number of teams couldn’t attend because of graduation. We won the NRAs last year, but the competition was a lot better last year. It was great for us, both teams dominated and shot well, but the competition wasn’t there.”

From there, Nation Ford went to the Junior Olympics National Championships in Camp Perry, Ohio, where the team placed second in the nation in a stacked field.

Carlson, a rising senior, added to his standout year with another national championship as he again placed first overall and set his second national record, giving his team six for the season.

“Levi is very good,” Mulcahy said. “If we ranked him from all of the matches, he’s probably No. 1 shooter (in the country). That’s not an official designation, that’s based on my opinion, but he’s a top shooter and very, very good.”

Again, Nation Ford kept up as Stallings finished 15th, Tench was 28th, Daniels placed 60th and Reed earned 61st in the country.

Nation Ford’s last tournament of the season was the Civilian Marksmanship Program National Championships in Camp Perry. There, the team tied for first place in the country, but lost a playoff by shooting six fewer inner-10 bulls-eyes than Gulfport (Miss.) High School.

“I’ve been telling them all along, ‘Every shot counts,”’ Mulcahy said.

“We’re scoring 4,000-plus points, but even with all of those numbers, every shot counts. Had one of our shooters shot one point higher, we would have beaten them. Now, you can say the same thing about them, and they beat us fair and square, but it goes back to every point counts. I think they all would take one shot back if they could, but we were the only team in the nation to be on the podium (at the last two meets), so I’m proud of the kids.”

“In the 168 teams from all-around the country – and this is an open tournament with shooting clubs and you name it – so for us to be on the podium and tie for first is something to be proud of.”

Despite the near miss on the team title, they had plenty of individual success.

Carlson was third in the nation and Stallings placed sixth. In addition, Tench was 13th, Daniels took 33rd and Reed placed 39th in the country at their final meet.

The team has had six weeks off, but will get back at it soon. First-year shooters were welcomed in this week, and the returning shooters will soon join them.

The first match is in September.

“We’ll prepare to win it.” Mulcahy said. “We’ll start hitting it hard and get ready for our competition. Like I said, we don’t always win, but we always prepare to win, and that’s what our goals always are.”