Two local Junior Navy ROTC rifle teams will represent Richmond County in national competition Friday and Saturday in Camp Perry, Ohio.
It will be the first time Cross Creek High School's team has gone to the national competition, said Cmdr. Johnathan Shaw, the senior naval science instructor and rifle coach at Cross Creek.
The team, ranked 17th out of 547, qualified for the competition last weekend in the regional competition.
"I'm proud of my kids," Shaw said. "They worked hard at it. The only ones we lost to all year are No. 5, South Effingham, and No. 6, Westside. That says a lot. It says we can compete with the best of them."
Westside High School's team has participated in the competition at least three other times, including last year, said Maj. Hank Mitchell, the team's instructor.
Practice begins the latter part of July and continues until March.
"This isn't a seasonal-type thing," said Mitchell, who has worked with the team for 17 years. "You stay the course for eight months, and if they want to keep that competitive edge, that's what they've got to do."
The team got an automatic invite because it is among the top 10 teams, he said.
Team captain Markesha McKay, 17, joined the squad as a sophomore with no shooting experience.
"It seemed like everybody was going out for other teams, like drill team, but I figured that this would be more interesting and more competitive," said Markesha, now a senior. "Major, he's the best coach. I came from not ever shooting anything in my life to being on a team that is sixth nationally. It's really a good feeling."
The team's top shooter, Elijah Baker, agreed.
"It is a great feeling," said the 16-year-old junior. "It's a great feeling knowing we earned the spot in nationals. It's not something they just give out. You have to go out there and earn it. It shows you hard work really does pay off."
The same is true for Cross Creek, Shaw said.
"The most important thing I want them to take away from this is that if they work hard at anything, they can succeed," he said. "They worked hard this year. They were very committed to doing everything right."
Cross Creek and Westside are traveling together to the competition.
"I wish both teams well. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome," Shaw said. "I think it's going to be a great experience for everyone."