Seventeen year old Taylor Gibson of Oregon’s North Salem Vikings Army JROTC, returned to the JROTC 3-P Air Rifle National Championship at Camp Perry in March with an abundance of aspirations in her mind—ready to defend the precision title she earned last year and repeat her record-setting performance.
In 2017, Gibson fired a new Army JROTC National Record 3x20 score of 597-48X. This year, she came only one center shot away from tying that score on the last day of qualifying competition. With only the finals left to fire in her 2018 showing, she set her sights on a new goal—an overall score of 700 for the day.
After starting out a little shaky in the final with two nine shots, she picked herself up and fired seven straight pellets through the black—ending just shy of her goal with a score of 699.9.
“I was really striving to get that 700,” she said. “It was still really exciting and still super fun—but I was so close! Next year, I’ll do it.”
Her overall two-day aggregate score of 1293.1 was enough to surpass her peers by more than 10 points—giving her the championship title for the second year in a row. The victory was the satisfying end result of a year full of self-discipline—both physically and mentally—and keeping herself set to an objective she was sure she could reach with concentration and determination.
“I wanted to do the same thing I did last year,” said Gibson. “I wanted to have two consecutive years of winning, so I was really focused—really trying hard to stay where I was from last year. I didn’t want to give up my title.”
After earning the runner-up position in 2015 and 2016, Gibson finally claimed the championship title in 2017. Next year she’ll return as a senior, looking to maintain her champion status for the third straight year.
Winning the 2018 sporter individual competition was 17 year old Emma Thompson of Freeport High School Navy JROTC from Illinois. A senior, Thompson was primed to win the event after suffering a bad cold at last year’s JROTC Nationals and landing just short of victory in the second place spot.
This year, Thompson secured a comfortable lead early in the competition and maintained her confidence throughout—claiming the championship title by a margin of more than 20 points above her competitors.
“I just tried to make it fun, make it strong—I came back prepared,” said Thompson. “I finished pretty well, in my average, and that’s all I can ask for my senior year. So, I think it went really well.”
After Day Two’s finals were completed, and the announcement of Gibson’s record-setting performance was made, a gleeful Thompson ran across the range to congratulate her friend on her win with a tight embrace. The two accomplished competitors have become close over the last three years, even competing together and winning the American Legion National Championship in 2016 in their respective classes. For their win, both girls had the opportunity to attend the American Legion’s National Convention in Cincinnati that same year.
“She’s amazing. I love this girl,” said Thompson with a beaming smile. “I’ll definitely track her down and keep up with her.”
In the future, Thompson plans to attend the University of Illinois to study aerospace engineering under a Navy ROTC scholarship.
Along with talented juniors taking home overall wins in the competition, over 35 Junior Distinguished Air Rifle Badges were awarded at the awards banquet, held this year at Kalahari in Sandusky, OH. Of those, 17 had earned their badges while competing in the National Championship.