Kate and Kirby McNeill, of Pleasanton put their rifle shooting skills to the test and each ended up Texas Champions. Kirby, a 14-year-old 8th grader at Jourdanton Jr High clinched the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association, Light Rifle Shooting Competition on May 26th in Gonzales. Two weeks later, her 17-year-old sister, Kate, a Junior at Pleasanton High School, secured the Champion position at the Texas High School Finals Rodeo in Abilene. The titles will earn each girl a spot on the National Team to compete in the National Junior High and High School Rodeos later this summer, in Huron, South Dakota and Rock Springs, Wyoming, respectively.
Both girls have been competing in rodeo and shooting sports since they were about eight. In addition to light rifle events, Kirby competes in goattying, breakaway roping, pole bending and ribbon running. Kate’s rodeo events include breakaway roping, pole bending, and team roping. Both girls were state qualifiers in multiple horse events as well.
“Our dad has taken us hunting as long as I can remember and gets a kick out of seeing us shoot. When we heard there was a competition at the Texas Junior High/High School Rodeo Associations, that’s all he needed to hear. He stapled some targets to a wooden pallet about 50 yards off our drive way and we started shooting. When he saw we were shooting well, we got a little more serious about it,” Kate explained.
“Kate had already proven herself as a shooter when I started to practice for the first time. I guess I never thought about the advan- tage I had to shoot with a dad who is competitive and a sister who didn’t want me to beat her in practice,” Kirby expressed. Kate then acknowledged, “We are often very competitive with each other and she keeps me on my toes considering that she can out-shoot me depending on the day.”
Both girls attest to the importance of a controlled heart rate and steady breath as critical for shooting well. That can be a challenge when you get nervous. And then there are the weather conditions. Winds can wreak havoc on shooting sports and Rock Springs, Wyoming, where Kate will shoot is known for 20-30 miles per hour summer winds. As Kate recalls, “Last year the winds were so strong they were blowing targets off the boards.”
Just like finding the right mount in rodeo events, the girls have gone through a few guns to find the right fit too. They both have settled in with CZ-USA 455 .22 Long Rifle and a Leupold3x9scope.The match consists of 12 timed shots in prone, kneeling and standing positions at 50 yards.
Along with a great shooting competition, National High School and Junior High Rodeo contestants have the opportunity to enjoy numerous other activities like volleyball, dances, family-oriented activities and church services sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys all while meeting, and competing, with contestants from all around the world.
Kate added, “We have already begun poking at each other about next year when we get to shoot directly against each other as she joins me in High School.” This is something the girls have worked towards for years and enjoy the fact that they get to hold the State Champion title together. “We are constantly pushing each other to do our best, but at the end of the day we’re each other’s biggest fan,” Kirby expressed. As the girls prepare to head out to the National Contest, their parents, Scott and Shalene McNeill, could not be more proud of Kate and Kirby and all their accomplishments this year. National High School and Junior High Rodeo, here come the McNeill sisters.