Three-day clinic took place at Piedra Vista High School

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FARMINGTON — The smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference in taking the perfect shot.

The two dozen San Juan County students who aspire to reach the big stage in the sport of rifle shooting made specific improvements in their technique, thanks to the three-day Civilian Marksmanship Program Clinic at Piedra Vista High School, which ended today.

"We wanted to come and reach this pocket of shooters because there's a lot of talent in this area. They have really embraced the training we've been giving," CMP camp director Sommer Wood said, adding this was the organization's first trip to Farmington.

All the attendees, who are enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and 4-H youth development programs at Piedra Vista, Farmington, Kirtland Central and Bloomfield high schools, had experience competing in state and regional rifle competitions.

The clinic was designed to help them fine tune certain techniques in the sport.

"It really does benefit you very much while you're shooting," said Amoret McCartney, who attends Piedra Vista.

The crash course

The curriculum is hands on and specific to students' individual needs. Some worked on their eyesight, while others focused on things like their posture while shooting.

Wood said the students also learned how to do things like fire with an "aggressive, yet still smooth" pull of the trigger, along with how to follow through and call their shot correctly.

"We're coming in and getting past a plateau that they've reached with their current training," Wood said. "We provide just that little bit of extra training and insight into shot process that helps them get over that hump that they might be on."

The students also watched video highlights from professional competitions, including footage of the 2016 International Shooting Sports Federation World Cup Finals in Munich, Germany, while absorbing what they could apply to their own technique.

PV duo is encouraged

McCartney and Josephine John, who are members of the Lady Panthers' JROTC rifle team, both aspire to compete at the NCAA level. Both noticed improvements that they say will help them ascend in the sport, thanks to the clinic.

John said her accuracy improved after she was taught to hold her rifle with an open palm. She said she previously held it using a closed palm.

"It's more stable for me," said John, who hopes to compete in rifle at either Texas Christian University, the University of Texas at El Paso or West Virginia University and then go to the Olympics. "I think the clinic is very effective."

McCartney said she now has clearer focus looking her target with her eyes, which is in turn helping her be a more accurate shooter.

"The clinics are something that'll help any shooter. (The smallest adjustment) changes everything," said McCartney, who also looks to compete at the collegiate and professional levels. "You want to slow your breathing, you want to make sure that your head falls just right. It's the little tiny, precise things that most people don't think about."

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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