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Concentration is key when cadets take aim; Competition Teens from Sussex to St. Stephen gather

at Simonds High (New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, 2011.03.21 , April Cunningham Telegraph-Jou)

SAINT JOHN - The sharp pops of gun shots rang out in the Simonds High School gymnasium Saturday as teens from across the region competed for a spot at the cadets' provincial marksmanship competition.

No talking was allowed as the cadets, lying on their bellies in a long row, carefully scoped their shots, took aim, and fired at targets across the gym floor.

Staying calm is the toughest part to getting an accurate shot, said Brandon Deveau, 14, of the St. Martins corps, who was about to start his first competition.

"If you shiver, you throw your rifle off, and you don't get a best score," he said.

In all, about 60 cadets from Sussex to St. Stephen gathered in Saint John Saturday for the zone competition, from which one team would move on to the provincials next month at CFB Gagetown.

"It's totally a self-control exercise," said Capt. Blaine Harris, the regional zone co-ordinator. "It's to teach them confidence, and practise how to be part of an organized group."

He said preparing for the competition means more than learning how to shoot the air rifle gun, which is like a BB gun.

"Most of these kids, they learn the self-discipline for this, and it carries on to other things."

The competition involves all three types of cadets: air, sea and army. The members have to follow strict safety and range protocols, risking penalties if they break the rules.

"These kids learn first and foremost how to safely handle a basic weapon and they learn all the safety aspects of firearms training," Harris said.

"Whether they do hunting or marksmanship for competitive sports, it gives them all the fundamentals so that they respect what marksmanship is all about."

Zach Miller, 18, has been involved in the marksmanship competitions for seven years. The Rothesay teen, a member of 268 Bras D'Or in Saint John, said he's also competed in national

biathlon competitions as a cadet.

"When I found out biathlon was shooting and physical work, I enjoyed it entirely," he said, adding he has ambitions of becoming a diver in the navy.

For Rebecca Delaney, of Browns Flat, shooting just seems to come naturally, the 15-year-old said. "I love shooting. My dad and my brother do it. I guess it runs in the family a little bit," she said.

Delaney, who says she's a better shot than her brother, got third place last year and was the top female shooter.

She said she enjoys being in the cadets, a free program for kids between the ages of 12 and 19.

Delaney, who is thinking about becoming a nurse in the military, said she's been on an exchange trip to Saskatchewan and went on a scuba diving trip in Gagetown with the cadets. "It's so fun. It's such a good atmosphere," she said.