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Kenmare girls raise the bar on competitive shooting...

Two teenagers from Kenmare have quietly built up a legacy for themselves in competitive shooting and are positioning themselves to set records in adult competition.

5/01/18 (Tue)

Two teenagers from Kenmare have quietly built up a legacy for themselves in competitive shooting and are positioning themselves to set records in adult competition.

The sisters, Jessica and Lindsey Ware, daughters of John and Tami Ware, in a sense, are only beginning. Jessica is 17 and Lindsey is 14. Together they compete around the state and recently brought home eight awards; Jessica with five and Lindsey three. Their younger sister Kendra, who is 8 1/2, also competes but narrowly missed award winning shooting.

Thus far in 2018, both Jessica and Lindsey competed with five rifles in seven rifle disciplines. They competed in side-by-side matches in Minot, Bismarck, Devils Lake, Grand Forks, Bottineau, as well as Buffalo and Ayr, both located in Cass County.

Jessica Ware’s accomplishments are as follows:

1.) First in classification at junior three position air rifle at state championship in Buffalo with a score of 566 out of 600.

2.) First in expert classification at open light rifle state championship in Bottineau with a score of 944 out of 1,000.

3.) First in classification at the junior light rifle postal in Bottineau with a score of 1,861 out of 2,000.

4.) Third place in expert classification at the open light rifle postal from Bottineau with a score of 1,861 out of 2,000.

Lindsey Ware’s 2018 accomplishments are as follows:

1.) First in classification at the junior three position small bore state championship in Minot with a score of 527 out of 600.

2.) First classification in the Bismarck open light rifle match with a score of 930 out of 1,000.

3.) Second in classification at the open light rifle state championship in Bottineau with a score of 934 out of 1,000.

4.) Second in classification at the open light rifle postal in Bottineau with a score of 1,828 out of 2,000.

Classifications in junior competition are based on age groups and classifications in open matches are based on skill level.

In 2017, both girls received the National Rifle Association’s Distinguished Expert Rifle in recognition of consistent high scores in competition. Jessica is considered an expert and Lindsey is a sharpshooter.

The girls’ grandfather Jeff Whillock says the scoring is similar to that of Olympic shooting competition. Scoring is based on whether a bullseye is hit or not. The closer to the center of the target, the higher the score.

Both girls started their competitive shooting career at a young age at the BB gun shoot during the Kenmare Goosefest. That age limit is 13.

“It’s something we’ve done with Grandpa and Dad who took us,” Lindsey Ware said. “It’s something that sets us at ease. It’s something we like to do.”

Younger sister Kendra, as well as cousin Kiley Whillock, fall into the BB gun competition age, but also participate in the junior shooting program at the Minot Rifle and Pistol Gun Club.

Jessica wanted to point out that much of this competition is sponsored by the NRA and this is a time to support it.

The NRA is bent on safety, according to Jessica, and if you do the slightest thing wrong at a competition that wouldn’t be within the rules and guidelines, you would be disqualified or sit out a round.

Whillock indicated there is always a safety briefing and judges go out of their way to make sure the rules are followed and the shooters understand the complexity of the competition.

Lindsey added it’s unfortunate that the NRA is often chastized when mass shootings occur.

“It’s (NRA) like an endangered animal,” she said. “It’s not the shooter, it’s not us.”

Jessica acknowledged her first place awards, saying it’s nice to be recognized, but she is doing it for fun, not necessarily to earn a trophy.

Lindsey, who is quickly making her own mark in this unique competition, says she’s in it because it teaches others what shooting really stands for.

“I take it all in stride,” she said. “In my bracket, there’s one of the best shooters in the state, but that’s not why I’m in it.”

That friendly competition comes from Katie Zahn, a shooter from Buffalo who beats her own high score each time she fires a weapon, according to Lindsey.

There’s also the coaches. Taking Katie Zahn as an example, Jessica said her coach will often assist the Ware sisters if the need is there.

“Yes, everybody is in competition and you would think they would focus on their own shooter,” Jessica said. “But they help us too.”

Getting to the level these girls have achieved isn’t easy. It’s a grueling schedule when you consider homework and they both have jobs at Gartner’s Jack & Jill in Kenmare.

According to Jeff Whillock, the girls will fire about 5,000 rounds in a season. They shoot Saturday morning and Tuesday night and have practice on Sunday night. And depending on the week, they may have competition on Sunday morning.

In all, there are about 40 kids in rifle competition in North Dakota. Neither of the Ware sisters has yet to make it to national competition, but Jessica got really close.

However, she has three more years of competition before she reaches her age maximum.

There are actually two national competitions; one is at the Olympic Village in Colorado Springs and the other is the NRA nationals in Camp Perry, Ohio.

And just to give an example of the expertise of Jessica Ware, in 1970, the best score for any adult in this type of competition was 488 out of 600. This year, Jessica has already achieved a 568 out of 600.

“The level of shooting the last two years has gone crazy high,” Whillock said. “These kids are shooting better than some college shooters.”

It appears likely both will get to the nationals at some point. The Olympics are next.

“If I get there, I’d be ecstatic,” Jessica said. “But it’s no big deal if I don’t make it.”

Lindsey added, “It would be a great honor to go to the Olympics, but if not, that’s OK. It takes a lot of work.”

According to Whillock, this started out as something to do in the winter and has ballooned into full-scale competition.

The girls seem satisfied despite what they say is so much to learn, but they seem content in their sport.

“If they’re willing to keep at it, their parents, Grandma and I are willing to get them there,” Whillock said. “And Kendra has done well in the BB gun shoot.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!