A year ago, Jake Ratcliffe had some of his first tastes of national skeet shooting success. Now, 14 years old, his aim and passion for the sport is still improving.
The incoming eighth-grader at Harvest Fellowship Christian School recently came home with a gold and a bronze medal from the Junior World Skeet Shooting Championships in Stockton, Calif. Ratcliffe competed against dozens of shooters over five days from July 25-29, earning a first-place medal in the .410 bore event and third place in High Overall, which combines composite scores from all gauges.
“I did a lot better,” Ratcliffe said, comparing his performance to last year’s Junior Worlds. “I’ve been practicing.”
In addition to having a range on his family’s land in Madill, Ratcliffe has competed in more than 20 events this year, along with his father, Jonathan, who also competed with Jake in doubles.
This week, Ratcliffe will compete in an even in Arkansas before going to the 77th Annual National Skeet Shooting Association World Championships in San Antonio on Oct. 1. His family will pile into its mobile home and chase down another set of skeet shooting titles.
Things nearly were perfect in Stockton. Ratcliffe hit 392 out of 400 targets, his best ever score, to secure his bronze in High Overall.
Ratcliffe was the only competitor in .410 bore to shoot a score of 99, earning him the honor of Sub-Junior champion. His victory in the .410 bore also earned him a spot in the Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame. All event champions have their names entered into the Hall.
“There could have been some improvements, but it could have been a lot worse,” he said.
In a year’s time, Ratcliffe says his biggest improvement has been in the mental aspects of shooting, such as “keeping his head” if things aren’t perfect.
His mother would agree.
“He really has grown since last year,” Ratcliffe’s mother, Kim, said. “When you first started doing it, if you miss a target, when you go to shoot the next one, you’re still thinking about the one you just missed.
“Now, he’s really good — he’ll just call ‘pull’ ... ‘shoot.’ That’s where he’s grown — mentally.”