Jade Gallahair wasn’t too keen on the idea of taking up the sport of air rifle shooting back when she was approaching her freshman year of high school. A track athlete in middle school, Gallahair had suffered an injury that limited her choices of sports for high school. It was then that her father suggested his daughter think about riflery.
“My dad loves shooting, and he saw Northside had a rifle team. He got excited about the idea and told me I should try it. I said, ‘Dad, don’t make me do that. That’s for boys.’ I don’t know why I said that but I did,” says Gallahair, laughing.
Not expecting to like riflery, but hoping to appease her dad, she gave it a shot, so to speak. Four years later, the sport that Gallahair claimed was for boys has become a passion for the only female on the Northside High School Rifle Team. She, along with her four teammates, brought home the winner’s trophy last April when the Patriots won the 2015 GHSA Riflery State Championship. Gallahair shot a 288 score at the state match. The high scorer on her team, Cason Borum had a score of 291.
It has been a work in progress for the 5-foot-6 athlete to get to this point. Gallahair readily admits she wasn’t a natural at this form of shooting in the beginning. She was familiar with guns and had experience with hunting rifles, but becoming a member of the rifle team opened up another world of shooting for her.
Her freshman year on the team was not memorable in terms of attending matches or producing high scores. It did give Gallahair the opportunity to learn the sport from the inside out. One of the unexpected aspects of shooting was the degree of technical skill required.
“I thought at first that shooting was shooting,” she says. “How hard could it be? I was wrong. The technical stuff is hard and the pressure involved in shooting with this sport is surprising.”
Not to be outdone by her naivety of the sport, Gallahair threw herself into research about it. She scoured Internet sites and read books on the subject. Gallahair asked questions and watched the older, more experienced shooters on her team. And, the wise young woman began a shooting journal to track every facet of her time with a rifle in her hand.
“I write everything down in it,” she says. “It helps to keep me calm during a match when I can go over my journal and see what has worked for me before.”
In the sport of high school riflery, there are three shooting positions for competitions. Of the three (standing, kneeling and prone), Gallahair states that standing is her best position. It is widely known throughout the sport that standing is also the most difficult.
Again, the senior’s maturity is evident in her preparation for the standing position. Gallahair says it requires the most concentration and focus. If she could master the most difficult, the other two positions would work out. Also, Gallahair points out that at the collegiate level of competition shooting, there is only the standing position. Since she is aiming for a spot as a collegiate shooter, it made sense in her mind to be ready to compete in the standing position.
After her start with the rifle program as a freshman, Gallahair continued to improve. She attended almost all of the matches as a shooter on the team when she was a sophomore. Her junior year was the breakout year for her, complete with a state championship. Along the way, she joined a rifle club to enhance her abilities with the sport. Due to her shooting for Northside and with the local rifle club, Gallahair is a competition shooter in a year-round sport.
Two evenings a week, she practices with her high school team. Two evenings a week, she practices with her club team. Between practices and matches, Gallahair can be found at the school range working on technique or in her living room using a computer software program, SCATT shooter training system, which uses a laser to simulate live shooting.
It’s hard to imagine how the senior finds time to study but Gallahair makes academics a priority. She currently holds a 4.3 grade point average and is dual-enrolled at Columbus State University. Gallahair says studies have shown rifle team athletes rank among the highest GPA averages of all high school sports. She feels she has benefitted greatly in the classroom by being able to concentrate, focus, and make adjustments; all techniques shooting has taught her.
At this point, Gallahair hasn’t made any plans for college. Her favorite subject is chemistry, and she would like to be a chemical engineer one day. Placing high in area competition and securing another state championship are her foremost goals for now.
On a more personal level, the Patriots team has become like family to her. In the interest of full disclosure, Gallahair started off on the team with an actual family member. Her identical twin brother, Hunter, has been a member of the Northside rifle team since he was a freshman, as well. The twins are exceptionally close but have enjoyed a healthy spirit of competition due to the shooting. Jade claims to be a bit better than her brother but is quick to point out he is always close in scoring.
Gallahair might be the lone female on the NHS rifle team, but she is rather obvious in her efforts to dispel the myth that the sport is “for boys.” Her rifle case bears a pretty monogram of her initials and her fingernails are painted a very feminine pink. She also wears jewelry and a colorful headband when shooting.
When the season comes to an end and graduation becomes a reality, Gallahair doubts she will be the only one on the team to experience an emotional moment.
“It has been such a great time, and we have grown so close. I think all of us on the team will shed a few tears to see it come to an end,” she says with a bright smile.
Gallahair’s training regimen involves yoga and eating healthy. She says she has tried to get the guys on her team to try yoga but laughs when she says, so far, she has had no takers.
Columbus Valley/Player Spotlight/December 2015
Northside High School
By Beth Welch
Photos by Jerry Richardson
Northside rifle athlete within range of goals