By Chris Goltermann - CowetaScore.com
Traditionally, East Coweta always one team to watch out for at the National JROTC Marine Corps Service Championships in February.
For the first time in recent memory, ECHS had depth to enter two teams in the precision air-rifle event again held in Anniston, Ala., with a majority of newcomers helping produce fifth and sixth-place efforts.
Coming off last year's state runner-up finish and a 2016 GHSA title, the program continues to flourish under the leadership of Major Peter Merrill as it did under former coach and GHSA competition director John Skinner.
Despite returning only top shooter Tanner Whitehead from last year's state finalists, East Coweta again advanced to the National JROTC Championships in March at Camp Perry in Ohio with its top five performance.
Whitehead led ECHS fifth-place lineup, which was joined by Drake Ward, Kinsley Hannon and Joshua Holm for an aggregate score of 4609 in the two-day Marine Corps Service Championship. It followed the standard 3x20 format with prone, standing and kneeling positions.
East Coweta's sixthplace foursome consisting of Evelyn Reid, Nathan Wright, Gage Acedera and Bo Saavedra wasn't far behind with a combined score of 4548.
Of the top-15 finishers, East Coweta lineups placed ahead of four others from Georgia. Granbury High in Texas won the Marine Corps title with a score of 4673 in a one-point victory over Eldorado, N.M. A team from Rio Rancho (N.M.) High was third and Granbury's No. 2 team placed fourth.
Whitehead led ECHS competitors with a twoday total of 1174 (out of 1200) to finish eighth individually. His two-day efforts included scores of 198 and 197 (out of 200) in prone, and Whitehead's two standing efforts of 194 and 197 in kneeling ranked fourth and third, respectively, among top performances.
Both Ward and Hannon opened Friday with perfect scores of 200 in prone for one lineup, while Reid and Wright matched the feat for the other. Ward also posted a 196 in kneeling on Friday.
East Coweta's average scores among all eight shooters were 198 in prone, 183.8 in standing and 190.4 in kneeling.