The Warhawk Battalion of the Daleville High School JuniorReserve Officer Training Corps won the 2016 Alabama “Above the Best” Junior Air Rifle Championship this past weekend.Saturday and Sunday, dozens of marksmen from eight JROTC high school programs across Alabama competed in the competition which was held at the United States Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker.Daleville’s Gabriel Hood, a senior and Rifle Team captain, was named individual National Champion in the sporter class competition. Other individual awards Hood won included first place NRA, third place CMP and third place for 60-shot Standing (USAS/Jr. Olympics).Another senior, Jonah Nabinger, earned first for the CMP individual competition, second place for the 60 Shot USAS/Jr. Olympics competition and third place in the NRA three-position competition.Enterprise’s Austin Hendrix was named the individual state champion for the precision shooter class. Another EHS student, Anthony White, won two individual awards for two 60-shot, standing competitions.The Enterprise group was the only JROTC to field an entire precision class team, though there were individual competitors from three states in that competition. Daleville JROTC Senior Army Instructor retired LTC Chris Miller said Hendrix did “quite well” outperforming individual competitors from Alabama, Florida and Mississippi to win his state title.The Warhawks swept the entire competition with an aggregate score of 4,270. The JROTC team from Fort Payne placed second overall with a score of 4,089 and the Enterprise JROTC scored 4,022 to claim the overall third place slot.This was the first “Above the Best” state championship to be supported by three sanctioning bodies—the National Rifle Association, U.S.A. Shooting/Junior Olympics and the Civilian Marksmanship Program, said Miller.Within the “Above the Best” State Championship, other competitions for separate titles were also held, including the NRA and CMP state championships. The Daleville cadets won both of those individual team awards. Scores were combined from Saturday and Sunday to determine the overall state team champion. Teams, other than Daleville and Enterprise, included JROTC units from Dothan, Leflore, Northview (marine), Fort Payne, Rehobeth (Navy) and Sparkman.All competitors for all shooting events competed from standing, prone and kneeling positions, except the 60-shot, which was standing only.Miller praised his cadets and the senior leaders. About Hood and Jonah Nabinger, he said, “ Both Nabinger and Hood have both stepped up to the challenges that were put before them this year in a superb fashion.”Nabinger said, “The ‘Above the Best’ shoot was a great way to start the wrap up of my senior year with three competitions coming up over the next couple months.These wins for the team were a great boost to our morale, leading up to the AMU competition at Fort Benning, Ga., at the end of the month and regionals next month in Anniston. JROTC has meant a lot to me. It's taught me leadership and discipline. I look forward to using the things I've learned when I leave for the Marine Corps in August.”Excited for his win, Hood, the sporter team captain, said he does not plan on a military career but credits his membership in JROTC with “changing” his life. “When I went into JROTC I thought it’d be just like going into the military…It wasn’t. I wanted to join because I wanted to be on the rifle team. It’s made me find myself. It’s a great program. Everyone should join,” he said, adding he plans to attend college in Nashville after graduation this spring.Daleville is hoping to bring home an NRA National Championship again this year, finding out in early summer after all other competitions are over. Miller could not be prouder of his cadets and their accomplishments. He said, “I watch the kids do all the work they have to do, keep good grades in school, have good character, behavior— consistently in order to remain in ROTC and on the team—and they still take time to focus and practice and put their practices before socializing…It’s the way our team should work. I’m very proud of them…They’re impressive.”Next up is the U.S. Army Marksmanship National Competition at Fort Benning—the team has posted good enough scores this year to receive an invitation to compete at that event. Afterwards, the team will progress on to Anniston for the U.S. Army JROTC Service Championships in mid-February. Only the top 25 teams—from the Southeastern part of the country—will compete in the Anniston event.The trophy remains on display at the museum and holds the names of both individual and team champions from each year. Daleville JROTC Sporter Rifle Team members take aim at targets during state championship competition last weekend at the Army Aviation Museum on Fort Rucker.
Gabriel Hood, far left, Jonah Nabinger, center, and Lamar Raybon compete from the prone position. Shooters compete in the positions of prone, kneeling, and standing during various levels of competition at the “Above the Best” Championship.