White County High School JROTC Cadet Ashton Parks won the Top Shooter for the “advanced” category in the Tennessee State JROTC Rifle Marksmanship Championships held November-December 2023.
Cadet Parks shot a highly impressive score and personal best of 282 out of 300 possible points while competing in the advanced category, beating 70 competitors. As such, he was recognized with a Certificate of Achievement and a gold medal he will wear on his JROTC dress uniform. While Cadet Parks averages in the low 270s, he felt confident in his score after shooting in this competition, and his intuition was rewarded.
Cadet Parks is no stranger to competing in, and winning, shooting competitions. In November 2023, Cadet Parks won first place in the “Pellets and Pumpkins Shootout” sponsored by Ooltewah High School, beating out 147 other competitors by shooting a 272 out of 300. In November, Cadet Parks was outshot by a narrow margin of 2 points when he shot a 266 in the Rossview High School JROTC Air Rifle competition, earning him an admirable second place finish. Finally, in December 2023, Cadet Parks shot a 268 in the Shelby Valley High School “Wildcat Battalion” and again placed first.
Cadet Parks has participated in competitive shooting since middle school when he joined the 4-H air rifle shooting team. Cadet Parks’ marksmanship coach Terry Speck identifies him “as one of the best shooters I’ve ever coached,” which is saying a lot seeing that Coach Speck has coached rifled marksmanship for decades.
Regarding his rise in the JROTC Rifle Marksmanship Team, Cadet Parks did not shoot his freshman year as he was fully committed to competing with the 4-H. Instead, Cadet Parks joined the JROTC team his sophomore year and continued to hone his shooting skills. Often, as he still does, Cadet Parks would practice shooting with JROTC and then immediately go to practice shooting with 4-H. His practice and attention to detail has definitely paid off as he continues to excel in both competitive shooting for the 4-H and JROTC.
The WCHS JROTC program, under the auspices of U.S. Army Cadet Command, is authorized to have and compete with an Air Rifle Marksmanship Team. Rifle Teams traditionally fall into several categories of competitors. First, there are “novice” shooters who have little or no experience in competitive shooting and are traditionally in their first year of training. “Advanced” shooters are those who have more experience. Generally, after competing for at least one year, a shooter is identified as an “advanced” and is not necessarily based on how well they shoot.
Additionally, JROTC units are issued “Sporter Class” air rifles by Cadet Command consisting of the Crosman Challenger PCP Air Rifle which use compressed air to shoot match grade lead pellets. To compete in the Sporter Class category, the shooter uses minimum equipment, in addition to the rifle, to include a shooting mat, sling, and kneeling roll as necessary. Some JROTC units also compete in the “Precision Class” using upgraded rifles and more restrictive equipment to keep the shooter and his rifle steady. Since these precision grade air rifles are not furnished by Cadet Command to JROTC units, they must be purchased by the school and therefore are few and far between.
In addition to serving as the JROTC Rifle Marksmanship Team captain and being the best JROTC shooter in the state of Tennessee, Cadet Parks is active in JROTC and White County High School. He serves as the First Sergeant of Alpha Company, is an aspiring member of the esteemed JROTC Color Guard and is training to participate in the Mountain Man Memorial March, a 13.1 mile foot march, to be held in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in April 2024. Cadet Parks currently maintains an “A” average in his academic classes for the 23-24 school year as he takes pride in his academic work and is also active in the WCHS FFA.
Cadet Parks and the other Cadets have the opportunity to shoot several more competitions over the spring 2024 semester. As for Cadet Ashton Parks, he’s setting his sights (pun fully intended) on the National Air Rifle Championships where he will represent the White County 4-H in Nebraska during the summer of 2024.
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