Jackson Davis

Jackson Davis (center) a junior at Social Circle High School, earned a spot in the Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colo., after qualifying in a meet at the University of North Georgia earlier in the month. Although Davis will not be traveling anytime soon, as the Junior Olympics were delayed due to the coronavirus, he’s still working to be the best.

Jackson Davis knew he planned to make it to the Junior Olympics one day.

He just didn’t think it was going to happen yet.

The junior at Social Circle High School competed in the qualifying meet for the Junior Olympics in rifle team, held earlier this month at the University of North Georgia, less in hopes of making it in and more as preparation for a true run at the goal next year.

So, imagine his surprise when his invitation was issued to Colorado Springs, Colorado, following him finishing high enough to make the cut as a competitor for the national Junior Olympics rifle marksmanship event.

“It feels pretty good,” Jackson said. “I wasn’t expecting to get in, honestly. I was kind of doing it as a what-if thing for next year. It was nice to make the cut. I’m excited.”

Of course, Jackson won’t be making that trip any time soon. Although his family had already booked plane tickets and lodgings for the mid-April event, they were forced to cancel those appointments after the Junior Olympics were delayed for an indeterminate amount of time, much as everything else has been in recent days due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.

Still, while Jackson awaits word as to when he and the other shooters might actually meet to compete, he can still bask in his unexpected achievement in making the cut, in his mind, a year early.

“It was meant to be a try-out,” Jackson said. “I’d never even shot a 60-shot stand before.”

Jackson, who competes during the regular season with the high school’s Junior ROTC rifle team, has been shooting since he was in middle school, when a friend convinced him to give the sport a try.

“I started shooting BB in sixth grade,” Jackson said. “I was in 4-H and someone on the team told me I should try it out, so I did. I loved it.”

As soon as he reached high school, he joined the rifle team with the JROTC and has never looked back.

“You put so much effort into it, it’s nice to see the results pay off at the meet,” Jackson said.

Overall, Jackson said that’s what has kept him in the sport, the feeling of his training turning into better performance each time he picks up his gun.

“It takes a lot of training, especially on the mental side of things,” Jackson said. “You have to shoot until your legs fall off.”

Jackson doesn’t know how long he’ll have to wait to compete in the Junior Olympics he qualified for, but he’s already looking forward to trying to make the cut again next season, and he’s looking beyond that, to continuing his shooting career after high school when he reaches college.

“I would like to keep shooting as long as I can,” Jackson said.

Stephen Milligan is a staff writer for The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.