Twins aim high with Olympic hopes (video)
Sept. 27, 2013 at 4:27 a.m.
Updated Sept. 28, 2013 at 4:28 a.m.
Melissa and Rachel Barringer are sharp in more ways than one.
The sharp-minded, sharp-looking 16-year-olds who attend Victoria East High School are also sharpshooters.
The identical twins were invited to participate in the Junior Olympic Development Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs this summer.
"We dined in the same place with the Olympians," Melissa said. "Many of them started where we are now."
They were two of 22 applicants selected from about 85 of the top American skeet and trap competitors in the nation.
Skill, a desire to improve and compete in future Olympic games and grade-point averages played roles in the final decisions, said the twins' mother, Tammy Barringer.
At the camp, Lloyd Woodhouse, Olympic shotgun coach, encouraged the students to pursue their Olympic dreams.
"The get-up attitude wins," Melissa said. "Count the wins and not the misses because it's one bird, and you still have the rest of the game."
Woodhouse also taught them to warm up their eyes before competitions to find the targets quickly.
The camp trained the twins in international skeet, which is slightly different from American skeet.
The international targets are bigger, thrown faster and travel farther than the American targets. The field dimensions are the same.
Melissa and Rachel were not strangers to skeet and trap fields before they began shooting four years ago. Their brother, Kyle Barringer, 19, began competing when the twins were in the third grade. Kyle has earned numerous awards over the last nine years and competes on the Texas A&M University Skeet and Trap Team.
"A lot of the sport is mental," Melissa said. "You have to keep your mind in the game."
The sisters compete in Wednesday night fun shoots held twice a month at the Victoria Skeet and Trap Club as well as the Sunday shoots held five times per year.
"At first, the girls were shy and afraid to be around the men," their mother said. "But they built their confidence, and now, they walk right out and are not intimidated."
If anything, the men are intimidated, she added.
Several of the friendly competitions have boiled down to shoot-offs between one of the twins and one of the men, who comprise most of the club's membership.
The men joked that they needed to pass a rule excluding little girls from shooting, Barringer said.
"They love the girls," she added. "They would do anything for them."
The sport has also allowed the girls to bond with their father and brother, she said.
From February to June this year, the twins competed in 14 major competitions that earned them more than 60 trophies, plaques, medals, belt buckles and other awards.
They have competed against each other in about six competition shoot-offs.
"It doesn't matter who wins because the awards just go together in a pile in our bedroom," Melissa said.
The twins have friends all over the state and look forward to seeing them at the shoots, Rachel said.
The sisters shot in the Scholastic Clay Target Program State Championship this year.
Of the more than 200 competitors in American trap, 31 were ladies.
Rachel shot 98 of 100 targets, which earned her first in the ladies' division. She was tied for first in the open division, which includes men and ladies, but lost the shoot-off to her opponent.
Melissa shot 96 of 100 and placed second in the ladies' division. She tied for fifth in the open division.
The eight-person team placed eighth overall, which earned the local program a $17,500 Scholastic Shooting Trust Endowment, from which 5 percent can be drawn per year for grants.
The twins also shoot for the Victoria East High School Ag Clays Team. They were part of a three-person, mixed-gender team that placed fifth in both trap and sporting clays at the Texas Ag Clays State Championship.
Melissa and Rachel are entering their fifth year in the Victoria 4-H Shotgun Club. So far this year, they have competed in 10 4-H shoots.
Rachel won a $10,000 scholarship at the 2013 San Antonio Livestock Exposition Junior Shootout.
The 4-H shotgun club membership has grown from more than 40 members last year to more than 60 this year.
The sisters' involvement in extracurricular activities does not end with shooting.
They both march in the Victoria East High School band, which practices three to four days per week until 7 p.m. They perform once a week at football games.
Melissa plays the clarinet, and Rachel plays the French horn but marches with the mellophone.
"When they aren't in band, they are shooting, pretty much seven days a week," Barringer said.
Despite all the bad publicity about guns, some of the best kids in the world are shooting guns competitively, she said.