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Cora Heisterkamp: AAA Class Champion Ready for the 2016 Season

Cora Heisterkamp: AAA Class Champion Ready for the 2016 Season

My name is Cora Heisterkamp and I’m 15 years old. I’ve been competitively shooting local Smallbore Silhouette matches since January 2012. In August 2014 I competed in my first sanctioned NRA match as an unclassified shooter. Twelve months later and I’ve graduated up to AAA class, have eight state titles, over 30 first place finishes and I qualified for Nationals. It’s been a really fun year!

I was recently asked “Why juniors should try out silhouette shooting.” I’ve spent the last couple of months thinking about this, first trying to decide why I enjoy it. I believe I enjoy Silhouette shooting for the excitement of the chase. NRA Silhouette targets are not easy to hit in outdoor conditions with a .22 rifle.  At every match I’m mostly driven to beat my own personal scores, winning a trophy is just a bonus!  It’s great to be a kid in a sport and still be able to compete not only against other kids, but also adults. On top of that, I’m proof you don’t have to have the most expensive gear available to be competitive and win. So, why should juniors try silhouette shooting? It’s more fun than you can imagine and the thrill alone is enough to get you hooked.

I didn’t always enjoy shooting this much though. My story really starts when my grandpa (papa) built a small, two lane shooting range on his farm. Prior to having that place to shoot my dad and I spent time in our back yard plinking soda bottles with a BB gun. With my papa’s new range we would get together with family a couple times a year and shoot .22’s that he and my dad owned. We would all take turns trying to hit the swinging, steel targets set at 100 yards. Once the guns’ scope was set right it was even more fun and we tried out smaller and smaller targets.

The local gun club my papa belongs to noticed the lack of kids participating at their monthly matches, even though they have a youth class. To change this, in 2012, the gun club created a family friendly silhouette match, similar to an NRA match, and named it “Friends and Family Smallbore Silhouette.” The targets were bigger, the rules less strict and the scoring system was modified to allow new and experienced shooters in the same class. Divisions based on age also kept things fair. Best of all, the entire family is invited and we make a day of it. My family was of the first families to join and every year more families participate. In November the gun club sponsors a party and awards trophies for the competition season, which is January to October. Several times I remember my sister and I not wanting to shoot anymore and my parents telling us “you have to finish what you started, you can’t quit until the season is over.”  After a match they would ask us if we had fun and we said “yes!”  I guess we just didn’t want to get up on a Saturday morning!  My whole family still competes in this local match, now including my eight-year-old brother, and my sister and I are both shooting NRA matches at multiple clubs as well.

I placed 1st in my class in the Friends and Family tournament in 2012, 2013 and both 1st in class and 1st overall in 2014. Near the end of 2014 I was bored with the tournament and asked my dad if there was anywhere else we could go. Our local gun club has two other silhouette matches, so dad took me to the easier of the two. That match was all adults and I was nervous, but after winning my class that day I realized it was really fun. The next time he took me to an NRA match. He kept telling me this match would be harder and not to expect to do as well as I do with the larger targets. I was again very nervous, but I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do this and I could score well. At the end of the day I had scored 18 of 40 at my first NRA match. Several people circled around me and told me how well I had done. A man approached my dad and asked if we had ever considered a state match. Of course we had not because we didn’t even know about them. Come to find out the man who approached my dad was the president of the Georgia Sports Shooting Association (GSSA) and was there to compete that day. We stayed a while and all talked about shooting techniques, trainers, first time NRA scores and state matches. It was all very exciting and over the next few months we started working towards competing in our first state championship. I really wanted to compete and win a championship in my home state of Georgia, but my dad said if that was really my goal then I needed to try another state championship first and see how things went before attempting Georgia’s.

The first state championship in our area was in Florida and dad made all the arrangements to get me on the list. When we arrived in Florida on Friday’s practice day I was comfortable and shooting well. On Saturday morning, the first day of the Championship, the weather had changed and it was very cold and windy. There were lots of people and things were very busy, it was the first time I wasn’t really sure about my decision as I stood with hot packets in my gloves trying to stay warm. However, after the day’s standard matches we learned that I had won High Junior Champion and came really close to winning A class Champion. Now I knew I could do this and I was ready to take on Hunter class the next day. Sunday morning we arrived at the range early, my dad helped me set the scope and I warmed up. It was a really fun day as I was stationed with shooters I was familiar with. I shot really well and we were all anxious to see the final scores posted. We were told there were shoot-offs (tie breakers) required in several classes. Dad had already packed up all the gear in the truck and we were waiting for the final awards. When the match director announced my name for a shoot-off for 1st Place AA at the rams, against a shooter we knew very well and had always beat me in the past, my heart started beating really hard. Dad rushed to unload everything again, my mom and grandparents tried to calm me down and remind me, “one target at a time.” The other shooter and I lined up at the rams, everyone surrounded us to watch. Then the match director called “Ready?”  I never want to be the first to fire in a shoot-off, so when the director said, “Fire” I let the other shooter go first. He missed, now I knew if I too missed I would have another chance. I took my first shot and also missed. I turned to my dad and gave him a confused look. He whispered, “Trust your gun.”  When the match director called us to the line for our second shot, I again let the other shooter go first. As I waited to hear if he hit his target or not, I watched my scope picture move up and down with my heart beat. I focused on my target, timed my heart beats and waited to take my shot. The other shooter fired and missed again; as the shot timer nearly expired I pulled my trigger and thankfully hit the ram. My family ran to me and everyone was so happy; I had just won 1st Place AA State Champion against a very experienced opponent!  The other shooter leaned across the bench, shook my hand and congratulated me and then turned to my dad and said, “I could not have lost to a better shooter.”

A couple months later we arrived at the Georgia State Championships and even though the range was new to me, I was much more comfortable than I was in Florida. Friday’s practice went well and I was confident I would have a chance at the championship. Saturday and Sunday turned out great and I won 1st Place AA State Champion and High Junior Champion both days. I was also one of the top 10 best shooters from the state (called the Postal Team), despite a heavy downpour during my last set of targets on Sunday.

A few months later I attended the Tennessee State Championship with one goal in mind, win my third 1st Place AA championship this year. That championship was by far the toughest course yet. The targets were orange instead of white, there were no backstops to indicate to my dad where my bullets were impacting if I missed and instead of two days and 40 target matches, this was one day and 60 target matches. Despite being very tired and overcoming the difficult course I still walked away with 1st Place AA State Champion and scored the third highest of 58 total competitors in the Standard class. It was a great feeling of accomplishment knowing only two Master class shooters outscored me by just a few points. Now that I’m in AAA class I can’t wait to compete at the next level. Bring on the 2016 shooting season and remember, stand and shoot!

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