Piedra Vista High School placed fifth and Kirtland High School placed eighth as the best 42 teams out of 1,650 qualified U.S. Army JROTC schools competed at the championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Feb. 16 through Feb. 20.
Piedra Vista Senior JROTC Instructor Dave Naber said he was really pleased with the performance of the team, moving up from placing 13th last year and 18th in 2011.
"I am so proud of these kids," Naber said. "They've continued to be focused and dedicated. They practice an awful lot and they've done really well."
During the competition, seniors Lawrence Benally and Daniel Estrada were awarded the Civilian Marksmanship Program's Distinguished Marksmanship Medal.
Naber said the medal awarded to Benally and Estrada has only been awarded 550 times since 2001.
"They performed remarkably," Naber said.
Naber said he believed the key to their success was an ability to work as a team.
"They get along very well and have a strong sense of teamwork," Naber said. "I think it's very important to their success. They'll put the team before themselves as an individual."
Kirtland JROTC Sgt. Major Craig Frost said this is the first time his team made it to the JROTC marksmanship championships and were able to attend. In 2012, the team qualified but could not afford to travel to the championship competition.
The team was able to secure some financial support this year.
Senior Justin Malouff said it was his first time attending the championships and felt a little bit nervous while competing.
"It was nerve wracking," Malouff said. "I've been to a few competitions but I was really nervous about looking at other peoples' scores and seeing they didn't suck."
Malouff said he was hoping to perform better at the competition but has gained a new skill from his years of shooting.
"I was really impatient in my freshman year," Malouff said. "It taught me patience and control and when something goes out of control, to not get mad."
As their marksmanship instructor, Frost said he hoped the students will be able to learn from the skills they picked up while competing and practicing.
"If it requires a specific skill, like concentration or stability, the kids adopted to it readily and took it really well," Frost said.
While the two teams have a friendly rivalry, both Piedra Vista and Kirtland will celebrate the other team's victory.
Frost said the Kirtland team beat Piedra Vista at a competition held in Texas in January and Piedra Vista congratulated them, delivering high fives to the winning team.
Joshua Kellogg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4627. Follow Kellogg on Twitter @jkelloggdt