By Laura Buck
The Calvert Recorder
Thursday, March 25, 2010; SM21
The Patuxent High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps air pistol team was once considered small but mighty. Now it's just mighty: Four members are heading to the National Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs next month.
There was a time when only about four students showed up for the team's practices, said its coach, retired U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Chris Konicki.
"Lately, I've had about eight, which is a lot," said Konicki, who coaches the team voluntarily and is the parent of three Patuxent High graduates.
The air pistol team is an entity of Patuxent's NJROTC program, which, Konicki said, "is programmed to develop junior leaders in high school" and promotes higher education, community service, service to one's country and pride in the U.S. military.
The program, which is affiliated with the U.S. Navy, enrolls 120 students, said its head, retired Navy Cmdr. Michael Dvorsky, who is Patuxent High's senior naval science instructor. The program also includes drill, color guard, athletic, academic, air rifle and sailing teams, Dvorsky said.
The air pistol team practices in trailers on the grounds of Patuxent High in Lusby. The pistols each weigh about four pounds and are more powerful than a BB gun, team member Kristin Wommack of Lusby said. The air pistols and air rifles are locked in a safe when not being used by the NJROTC members, the only students allowed to use them, Dvorsky said.
The reason for the air pistol team's growth, Konicki said, is mostly its success: The team has finished fourth two years in a row in the National Rifle Association's National Air Pistol Match, and several members placed in the top three for men or women in the 2010 Maryland State Junior Olympics Championship at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Wommack, a 17-year-old junior, is the first female on the team to qualify for the Junior Olympics. She placed first among females in the Maryland State Junior Olympics.
"I guess I feel pretty powerful in that I'm showing all the other females that it's not just a 'guy sport' and girls can do just as well as the guys can," Wommack said.
She said she is preparing for the national competition by preparing herself physically and mentally and "by telling myself I can do it. I'm just as good as everybody else; there's nothing that can stop me from doing as good as I'm going to do."
In competitions, females shoot 40 shots -- with five shots each at eight targets -- and males shoot five shots each at 12 targets for a total of 60, she said. All targets are set at 10 meters.
As for the guys, junior Timothy Wood and senior Ken Swarts, both of Lusby, placed first and second, respectively, in the state Junior Olympics and are heading to the national contest.
"These guys have been neck-and-neck the whole year," Konicki said.
Wood, 17, said that although next month's competition would not be his first time at a national level, he is certain that he has improved his skills from previous years.
"I'm really excited about going again . . . It's a lot of fun," Wood said. "You've got to shoot faster, but you've got the same fundamentals."
Freshman Seth Bearjar of Lusby placed sixth in the state Junior Olympics and is heading to the national tournament.
Bearjar, 15, said he does not expect to place on the same level as his older teammates.
"It'll be more of a learning experience for me. I'm just excited to go," he said.