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NJROTC student wins big at air rifle competition
Turlock High NJROTC student Richard Gastelum practices his air rifle shooting before competition. - photo by Photo Contributed

Determination and discipline are just two of the traits developed by those who participate in air rifle marksmanship.  For Richard Gastelum, a junior ROTC student at Turlock High School, competing in air riffle competitions has also earned him the title of one of the best shooters in the nation.

Gastelum was selected as one of the top 15 shooters in the nation, beating out 3,065 competitors,  in the 2013 Navy JROTC Service Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah last week.

“I never thought I would be selected as one of the best,” said Gastelum.  “I thought I would be dead last.”

The Air Rifle Competition is an annual event open to all Navy JROTC/NDCC cadets and Navy JROTC/NDCC unit teams. All individuals fire a 3 X 10 course of fire; 10 shots at each of the prone, standing and kneeling positions.

“Among the 3,065 participants they select the top 50 to participate in the championship,” said THS NJROTC Major Kelly Cross.  “This is the first time THS has had a student participate in the championship level.  We’ve been training all year for this moment and I am happy that Richard was recognized for his hard work.”

Gastelum said it wasn’t easy to prepare for the championship.  In fact, he had to invest a lot of his time shooting throughout the week.

“It was a very intense training,” said Gastelum.  “We would shoot for hours on end.  We would practice one and a half hours a day, four days a week.  We even trained during the holidays.”

Air rifle shooting is the most popular and fastest growing of competition shooting sports for high school students.  For Major Cross and his ROTC students, air riffle competitions will be a priority for next year.

“Our goal next year is to take a team to the championship,” said Cross.  “We will be practicing all year long in perfecting their skills.”

For now, Gastelum is celebrating his new found glory by keeping his medal at hand at all times.

“The medal is a reminder of my hard work and dedication,” said Gastelum.  “I will be ready for next year’s competition and come out stronger.”