Most Viewed Stories
Right on target
Ruxton taking her shooting talents to Nevada
During her four years at Sutter High, Jessica Ruxton played on the Huskies volleyball and tennis teams.
But during her sophomore year, Ruxton joined the Sutter rifle team, consisting of many young adults from the county. Little did she know at the time decision would pay off with a bang — literally.
"I was too shy to join the team my freshman year, but I didn't like not playing a sport during the winter season," said Ruxton, who graduated earlier this month, "so my sophomore year, I joined the team."
Thanks to her time and dedication spent in the firing range, and most importantly, in the classroom, Ruxton will be attending the University of Nevada, Reno on a full-ride scholarship.
"There are about 40 colleges that have rifle teams in the United States," Ruxton said. "I decided that I wanted to go to Reno. I love the campus, and the coach (Fred Harvey) is awesome."
The coach thinks highly of Ruxton, too.
"She is bright," Harvey said. "She has a very positive attitude (and) has a strong work ethic."
This year, Ruxton has competed in the air rifle and small-bore events at the California State Champions. She also qualified for the Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Last week, Ruxton and the Sutter squad competed in the National Rifle Association's Junior Air Gun Championship and Training Summit, where about 200 shooters are competing in the sub-junior, intermediate junior and junior divisions. Last year at nationals, Ruxton earned numerous medals and plaques. She was also a part of the Sutter squad that garnered second place.
Ruxton describes what a rifleman — or riflewoman — would expect when they put a rifle in their hands.
"We shoot from 10 meters away (with an air rifle), and for small-bore (using a .22-caliber rifle), we shoot from 50 feet away," Ruxton said. "If it is outdoors for small-bore, the distance is 50 meters away."
A target is set up similar to archery. Hitting the center target, or the mark the shooters may refer to as the No. 10 spot, accumulate points. Getting closer toward the 10 spot generates higher points.
"In order to shoot a 10, you have to hit a dot in the center that is about the size of the period at the end of a sentence," Ruxton said.
There are different types of shooting that requires the shooter to do more than just stand. There's the prone position, which Ruxton describes as a shooter laying down, plus kneeling and off-hand that requires standing.
"We shoot two days a week during the season," said Ruxton of her training. "When training for nationals, we shoot three days a week and condition two days a week.
"A lot of people do not realize how hard it really is."
In this sport, beginners use what is called a sporter gun. If a person chooses to stay with the sport, they upgrade to a precision rifle. The sporter shoots the same positions, but do not wear the thick canvas pants and jackets that precision shooters wear.
"The sporter gun does not have all of the adjustments a precision gun has; it is a lot smaller in size," Ruxton said.
Today, Ruxton uses a Feinwerkbau 700, which is considered one of the rifles to use in competition by the International Shooting Sport Federation. And the gun is not cheap, either. The lowest prices found online start at $3,000.
For anyone thinking that this sport mostly for boys growing into men, guess again. On this year's Sutter team, there are nine girls and three boys.
"Boys should not be discouraged when the girls beat them," Ruxton said. "Last year, it was all girls; it is not for everyone. Many people think that it is boring. It takes a lot of practice and time to get better, but if you stick with it, the rewards are great.
In the short time she's been on the Sutter rifle team, Ruxton feels about a half-dozen people have made the difference in her earning a scholarship to UNR, especially coaches Ned Lemenager and Allen Jaynes.
"They have volunteered their time and effort. They are the reason that our team has done so well. Many of their shooters have gone to college for rifle due to their tremendous coaching."
If a teenager wants to learn the art of point, aim and shoot the mark, Ruxton makes suggestions.
"It takes a lot of patience and concentration," Ruxton said. "This sport is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. You have to be dedicated. It's OK if you have never shot a gun before, or don't know what you are doing. You will pick up the basics quickly, the rest takes time and practice.
"Joining the rifle team was the best thing I ever did. I absolutely love it, and I have the best team and coaches ever."