Virginia Tech students can celebrate one victory from over the weekend.
In front of almost 1,000 cheering Tech fans, the Corps of Cadets stole a narrow win from Virginia Military Institute during a musket shooting competition in Northern Virginia.
As part of the North-South Skirmish Association's (N-SSA) national celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a team of Tech's cadets in the Army ROTC Marksmanship Unit won against VMI in a competition featuring Civil-war era muskets.
"It was really cool while we were shooting to listen to the crowd, because we would get a hit and all the Virginia Tech fans would scream, and then they would get a hit and all the VMI fans would scream,” said Cadet Staff Sgt. and junior human development major Samantha Rowe. “It was just really awesome to listen to that.”
During the competition, each team shot a board of clay pigeons at 50 yards. Whichever team shot the most won.
Tech's team of nine, compared to VMI's team of seven, held up well during competition despite the large crowd. They shot 21 of their 32 clays while VMI shot 16 of their 28.
Rowe held the position of team leader. She started doing competition air rifle shooting when she was 8 years old, and has since moved on to muskets.
"My dad's been doing it for a long time, and it's become a family sport: my mom and my dad both got into it, my granddad does it and I do it, so we've got three generations of shooters doing it now," Rowe said.
Cadet Staff Sgt. Ben Hackney, a junior in food science and technology and a member of the team that competed, has also been shooting competitively since high school and was introduced to the competition by Rowe.
"It was extremely stressful. I've never been more stressed out during a shooting competition in my life," Hackney said.
The event was originally meant to be held between VMI and West Point students in celebration of the Battle of New Market, where VMI cadets fought alongside Confederate soldiers.
When West Point was unable to get a sponsor, Ken Stiles, a visiting faculty in the geography department and member of the N-SSA, recommended Tech in its place.
Stiles has since been helping plan the event and has been training the team in the handling of the Civil War-era firearms.
"We started our first session in March, we had five or six sessions last semester.” Stiles said. “I didn't care about their accuracy, it was mostly safety. This is how you safely load, don't worry about hitting.”
Rowe was one of the few Cadets who had previous experience with muzzleloaders, firearms loaded down from the barrel, but still appreciated the effort Stiles put in.
"(Stiles) was a great coach, he got us everything we needed and really helped us to get attuned with our guns," Rowe said.
For Hackney, the practice was also enjoyable, though difficult given his lack of experience with that type of firearm.
"The preparation was a lot of fun. (Stiles) brought us out to the range on a few occasions,” Hackney said.
The firearms were loaned out by various members of the N-SSA to the students for use, and have been kept by Stiles since training began in March.
According to Stiles, there is a possibility of the competition occurring again in the spring, if they can overcome the time constraint of gathering equipment, setting up range practice time and corresponding schedules.
Given the opportunity, both Rowe and Hackney said they gladly do it all over again.
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