Fresh from a perfect 100 in Saturday’s prone-position competition, Tiffay Fowler, a member of the Patch marksmanship team, has her sights set on a championship or two.

Fresh from a perfect 100 in Saturday’s prone-position competition, Tiffay Fowler, a member of the Patch marksmanship team, has her sights set on a championship or two. (Rusty Ryan / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany - Patch junior Tiffany Fowler proves that bad first impressions can be overcome.

Way overcome.

"When she tried out her freshman year, she managed to drop one of my rifles," Patch marksmanship coach Jack Wayne said with a chuckle on Monday as he recalled one of his $1,000-plus precision air rifles clattering on the floor. "That was a big mistake. I cut her."

The bigger mistake might have been to cut Fowler. Retaining a sure-fingered grip on her rifle ever since, Fowler, 16, has developed into one of the premier marksmen in DODDS-Europe.

Last Saturday, she fired a perfect score, 100, from the prone position in propelling herself into the DODDS individual season lead (850 of a possible 900 points) and helping the Panthers to a record team score of 1,413 out of 1,500 possible points. It was Patch’s second record in as many meets. Five Panthers combined to fire a 1,402 on Dec. 11 to break the record of 1,400 set by Wayne’s Würzburg marksmen in 2003.

"It was a big deal for me," Fowler said of Saturday’s perfect score — 10 bull’s-eyes in 10 shots. "I had never done it before."

Not many have. Bull’s-eyes on precision air-rifle targets are the width of a pencil eraser — a miniscule aiming point at the 10-meter firing distance. And as the 10s mount, Fowler said, so does the pressure.

"It’s very stressful," Fowler, the Patch JROTC battalion executive officer and the Stuttgart community’s youth volunteer of the year for 2007-08, said about the mounting bull’s-eyes. "The closer you get, the harder it gets."

Fowler, who said she’s been shooting rifles and shotguns since age 11, overcame the pressure to chalk up her perfecto en route to a meet-high score of 287 of a possible 300. She finished two points ahead of one teammate, senior Leah Lynch, and three ahead of another, Lynnise Johnson.

Although the performance of Patch’s dead-eyed trio might seem to provoke cutthroat competition among them, Fowler said things aren’t quite how they appear.

"It’s competitive in the sense that we try to keep up with each other," Fowler said. "We’re all on the same level in a sense. We’re trying for a high team score."

Amplified Lynch, the battalion commander, "First Sgt. Wayne always tells us, ‘It’s all about the team.’ Individual success is great, but the team is what matters."

Patch’s team again is headed for a national competition next month in the States, where the Panthers will try to add to the Army championship they won there last year. They’re after the national championship this time around, which will be Fowler’s first try in the event.

She said she’s glad to have the experience of Lynch and Johnson to draw on in the pressure-packed meet, which will have 80 marksmen, the nation’s best, all firing at the same time.

"It’s nice to have someone who’s been there tell you what’s what," Fowler said.

Before that, however, is the not-so-small matter of dethroning two-time European champion Hohenfels for the DODDS-Europe crown. The test will come Jan. 31 at Vilseck.

"The past two years, we’ve beaten them in the conference, but lost in the finals, last year by two points," Wade said. "We’re trying not to peak too soon."

And the battle for individual honors?

"We don’t care who wins," Fowler said, "as long as the top spots belong to Patch."

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