Hitting the Mark

  • 27 January 2011

Tessa Howald is focused not only on her favorite sport—rifle—but in the gospel as well. Photograph by Emily Hoffman, Christian County Headliner News.

Article Highlights

  • Name: Tessa Howald
  • Age: 17
  • Location: Ozark, Missouri
  • Accomplishment: Broke two national records for air rifle shooting

“Tessa’s love of the gospel and righteous living have helped keep her and her family strong in the gospel. She’s incredibly good at being a leader because she is kind, she knows how to let others participate and use their skills, and she treats everyone equally.”—Jen Armstong, Tessa’s Young Women president

Whether it’s setting an example for her family of 10; fulfilling her calling as Laurel class first counselor; juggling school, church, work, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC); or competing in her favorite sport—rifle—one thing is clear: Tessa Howald has gotten pretty good at hitting the mark.

Nowhere was that more apparent than at the Gary Anderson Invitational Air Rifle Competition in Anniston, Alabama, USA, on December 3 and 4, 2010. Shooting 20 shots from each position—prone, kneeling, and standing—the straight-shooting 17-year-old from Ozark, Missouri, set the individual Army JROTC 3x20 national record and the total score Army JROTC national record.

Her precision is equivalent to shooting at, and repeatedly hitting, a target the size of the eye of a needle from 33 feet away.

“Rifle isn’t as physical as some other sports, but it is a great mental challenge that I love,” Tessa said. “I’m kind of scared of big guns, so I took on the challenge to become comfortable with shooting.”

She joined the JROTC, a program designed to encourage high school students to become better citizens. Beginning in December of her freshman year, Tessa worked hard to improve her shooting. She practices after school on Thursdays with her Daisy 887 pellet gun.

Organizing her time helps her keep her eye on the target. “It’s really hard sometimes to balance school, church, work, and my sport, because I want to be involved, but sometimes events conflict,” she said. “I schedule my practices so I can still go to my Church activities.”

Tessa does an at-home seminary program so she can take care of early-morning JROTC duties as well.

As a big sister, Laurel leader, and JROTC command sergeant major—which involves helping organize 180 students—Tessa is under the gun to be a good example. She keeps her eye on the mark by remembering who and what she represents.

“In competition, I’m representing the school, myself, and the Church,” she says. “It’s always good to make sure I’m not giving the wrong impression.”

Her ward Young Women president, Jen Armstrong, said Tessa is inspirational, insightful, and focused. “Tessa’s love of the gospel and righteous living have helped keep her and her family strong in the gospel,” she said. “She’s incredibly good at being a leader because she is kind, she knows how to let others participate and use their skills, and she treats everyone equally.”

Tessa often brings nonmember friends to church, and her influence has helped many new members feel welcome, including rifle teammate Shelby Brummett, whom Tessa introduced to the Church.

With her sights set on making good choices daily, Tessa aims to maintain her standards wherever she is.

“The Church itself and the standards we live help a lot,” she said. “I can also look at my patriarchal blessing and see things I can do to become the person I want to be.”

She keeps her personal goals in focus by remembering to be positive.

“I compare life to shooting a lot,” Tessa said. “If I have a bad thought while competing, I tend to do worse. It’s the same in life. If I have bad thoughts, it will bring me down. If I keep positive, it can only get better.”

That attitude of keeping her eye on the target—in shooting and in life—has brought Tessa peace and success through many experiences.

“Whenever I get nervous, I think of Joshua 1:9 where it says, ‘Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest,’” Tessa said. “It helps me to calm down and to know I have the Spirit with me.”

The night before the big competition, Tessa was staying in a hotel with the team when she realized she had forgotten her scriptures. Luckily, the hotel she was staying in had a Book of Mormon, so she was able to do her nightly scripture study and say her prayers.

“The next morning we had physical training and I had done something to my back so the muscles were tight,” Tessa said. “But I was still able to perform well, and I know it helped that I read and prayed.”

As her senior year of high school approaches, Tessa has attending college on a shooting scholarship in her crosshairs. And with her leadership, focus, and determination, she’ll be ready—lock, stock, and barrel.