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Hinds County 4-H’er heads to national rifle competition
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Brandy Barnes’ excitement is building, but she keeps a cool head at the firing range.
In the summer of 2015, the 17-year-old Hinds County 4-H member scored among the top five .22-caliber rifle participants at the state shooting sports competition. The accomplishment earned her a spot at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship set for June 26 to July1, 2016, in Grand Island, Nebraska.
“It’s really starting to hit me now,” said Barnes. “I’m very excited.”
Supported by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the 4-H shooting sports program teaches participants to safely and responsibly use firearms and archery equipment while building skills for future vocational and recreational activities. Disciplines include hunting, shotguns, air rifles, air pistols, compound archery, recurve archery, .22-caliber rifles, .22-caliber pistols, and muzzle-loading rifles. Members can participate in more than one discipline.
At the national competition, Barnes will compete as a member of a four-person team. She represents the state’s southwest district. The other team members won state 4-H .22-caliber-rifle competitions in their respective districts. Individuals can participate in the national competition only once in each discipline.
“We are very, very proud of Brandy,” said Lurlinda Soignier, Hinds County Extension 4-H agent. “Earning this national-level achievement is the result of years of hard work and practice. We love it when people who are so deserving get an honor like this.”
Barnes joined 4-H four years ago because she wanted to learn to shoot. She said she cannot explain where the desire came from, but it was something she was curious about.
“I really enjoy it,” she said about the sport. “It’s challenging. The fact that I’ve been participating for only a short time and have done so well encourages me. Shooting sports also is considered a male sport. It’s fun to break that stereotype, especially when you score better than they do.”
Like all 4-H members who participate in shooting sports, Barnes began with the mandatory safety class.
“They teach us first about safety,” she said. “We learned everything about what to do and what not to do. They taught us everything: about the gun itself, how it works, how to clean it, how to load and unload it, and how to hold the gun correctly. Range safety is also part of that training. The instructors always make sure safety comes first when we are at practice or at a competition.”
Barnes practices three to four days a week, juggling a schedule that includes high school classes and other extracurricular activities. She is a member of her school’s archery team and choir. She also serves as a global ambassador, helping foreign exchange students at her school get adjusted to their new environment.
She devotes Mondays, Tuesdays and weekends to range practice when competitions are approaching.
“You have to prepare differently for state and national competitions,” Barnes said. “You are competing against a group of individuals who are driven and determined.”
Shooting has become an enjoyable pastime for her family as well.
“When she finishes practicing, I like to shoot against her to see if I can beat her,” said her mom, Donna Barnes. “But I never do. She always wins!
“We enjoy this, too. And we are so excited about her participation in the national competition.”
Brandy Barnes said her ultimate goal is to represent the state of Mississippi on the U.S. Olympic Team.
“It would be really great to bring home a gold medal someday,” she said.