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KGHS Junior shoots his way to top National Champion

Four KGHS NJROTC shooters headed to Anniston, Alabama for the All Service National Match held March 21st to the 23rd. All four shooters did well but one came away with a national title. Hunter Cushman, a junior at KGHS and a member of the KGHS NJROTC Rifle Team, had the best match of his life.


Cushman is the kind of young man who is fun to be around. He is full of laughter, he makes jokes and pranks at times, and he loves to shoot. He is an avid deer hunter and a real countryboy at heart. During the fall when he is not practicing his shooting or doing homework, you will likely find him with his father, brother and friends in the woods looking for a shot on a whitetail to put in the freezer.

During the first day of the Nationals Match, Cushman was shooting very well, well enough that he was selected from among all of the shooters from various JROTC units around the country to be among the top 8 shooters and therefore qualified to shoot in the “finals.” The finals are held with marksmen using .177 air rifles and pellets shooting from a standing position at a distance of 10 meters. They shoot at a paper target with an “X” ring in the center the size of the tip of a pencil. Shooters score from a 0-10.9. To get the top score the shooter must wipe out or perfectly hit the X in the center ring.

During the final shoot off, shooters are given the command to “LOAD” and then “Start”. They have 45 seconds to get into position and take their best shot. Cushman explained that the use of the skeletal system of your body is more important than using muscle. Controlling your breathing is also crucial. Shooters take into account all sorts of variables to shoot as well as possible. Caffeine or sugar intake is closely monitored. However, each person tries very hard to keep their daily routine intact, so as not to change one thing that might drive up heart rates, which would equate to shake or wobble while shooting.

After each of the top 8 shooters shot one pellet downrange, huge monitors showed their shot placement on the screen, announcements were made as to scores, and shooters would again await the command to “Load”. Cushman shared that he was locked in a battle with an Army JROTC shooter from Texas. The shooter, Todd Mazur, had previously competed with Cushman at a Junior Olympic Match. Cushman was a bit apprehensive about the scores as they were trading places for the lead for the first 6 shots or so. This battle gave the crowd quite a show. During the 7th-10th shots Cushman settled into a groove and pulled out the lead. Not long after the final shot he was informed that not only had he won, but he broke three national records. The first record he broke was in the kneeling position. Then he broke the Sanctioned 3 P Overall Score record before the final shootout. Finally, he broke the overall record for the match using a Crossman Challenger .177 air rifle. That was only day 1.

On the second day things were a bit calmer. But given Cushman’s laid back personality and the fact that he had already worked himself into a shooting groove, his statement to that effect is not surprising to this writer. He was already six points ahead. So, what does a King George countryboy do who wakes up early and has time to kill before the grand finale of a rifle match? Cushman had me in stitches when he told me. He woke up, ate a huge breakfast of pancakes, got a bit bored and went outside of the house where they were staying in Alabama and began splitting wood and showing his teammate, Ben Frith, how it was done!

Later that morning the team took to the road and 45 minutes later they were at the range setting up for their last day of shooting. Cushman tells me that once he got set up he took a power nap to slow his heart rate and focus on the task at hand. Prior to the match he was having a tough time with the prone position so he also changed his position a bit and it paid off. His group tightened up as a result. He was shooting 9.8 and 9.9’s, but not quite 10s, which teased and frustrated him a bit. However, he cruised to a great finish. When the range officer came over and tapped him on the shoulder he told him, “You just broke the national record!”

He would have been happy right away but his position was so tight that his leg and arm had fallen asleep and he was in pain waiting for his limbs to come back to life. However, when the tingling stopped, he sat there thinking about what happened and just could not believe it. In fact, he broke two of his own records from the day before!

What does a young man who breaks records and wins a national title think about afterwards? Food of course! He was thrilled to go to a Mexican restaurant and enjoy some great food with his coach, Commander Duckworth and teammates.

Prior to the match, Coach Morgan told Cushman, “If you win the national title I will put you in my little book next to the only other two or three people that have done that.”

I suppose Coach had to find a pen and write Hunter Cushman’s name in that book. I bet he smiled as he did so. If you see Cushman, Coach Morgan or the other members of the rifle team, take the time to congratulate them. They have won a slew of awards lately. See Carrie Richbourg’s story in last week’s paper for details. I am proud to know that one of King George’s countryboys laid claim to that national title.

 

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