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Apalachee grad hopes to compete on world stage

Barrow MVP

POSTED: July 2, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Barrow athlete Brandon Thomas brandishes three of his medals. Thomas won these medals at the NRA National Championships as the first place junior, the USA Shooting State Junior Olympics and for winning first place at the Georgia Games.

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Every athlete dreams of being the best at what they do. For one Apalachee alumnus, that pursuit drives him towards being one of the best in the world and proving it on a world stage.

“It’s a lofty goal in life besides starting a career,” Brandon Thomas, graduate of Apalachee High School and Olympic hopeful, said.

Former Apalachee Riflecat Brandon Thomas signed his letter of intent to compete collegiately at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega earlier this year, but that is not the end of his competitive journey. 

For Thomas, nothing short of competing as a part of the United States National team at the Olympics will cut it.

The Barrow County native has already tried his hand at a number of state and national level competitions, including most recently a first place finish at the Junior Olympics in Camp Perry, Ohio last weekend as part of the team Hardcore 4, a shooting team out of Bethlehem.

Thomas finished 13th individually, leading his team to the team title with two others, Dana Bowen and Mary Pratt, finishing in the top 20.

“It feels pretty good. It’s the first time we’ve done this good,” Thomas beamed. “We just need to keep getting better.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Thomas said of competing in the Junior Olympics, but it comes with a great reward. “Going through that gives you a chance to be on the USA shooting team.”

Even though Thomas is proud of his team’s success, he knows that his individual results need to improve before he can hope to be a part of Team USA.

“It’s what I’m trying to do, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I just need to keep training and working hard,” Thomas acknowledged. “There’s still some improvement to be made.”

A shot at being on the Olympic team would be the culmination of a lifelong dream for Thomas, as he has been drawn to riflery his whole life. 

“It started out with bb guns in fifth grade and moving up through it I found out that I wanted to keep doing it,” Thomas reminisced. “I watched the Olympics one day and decided that I wanted to be on it.”

Inclusion on the Olympic team would all come down to Thomas’ individual performance at various shooting events and competitions like this past weekend’s endeavor up in Ohio, though, so Thomas will keep working towards that end even though he has aged out of competition as a Junior Olympian. Now, the world’s greatest international athletic competition is the next big step.

Before he can proceed to the Olympics, though, Thomas has a few years of college ahead at UNG where he will continue competing in shooting sports.

Although shooting is something that Brandon has done for most of his life, including the past four years at Apalachee where he finished second individually at the 2014 GHSA state championship individual tournament, competition at North Georgia will be somewhat different from what Thomas is used to.

GHSA competition in riflery follows most of the national three-position protocols. Athletes have to fire at ten targets from the standing, prone and kneeling position. 

College competition, however, follows International Standing, shooters will take 60 shots, all from the standing position. They also compete in three-position small bore competitions using a .22 caliber.

“I’ve been mainly focusing on standing position the last couple months, and I’ve got to get my score up to compete with all the other college athletes,” Thomas acknowledged. 

“I want to make the travelling team and shoot all the matches,” Thomas said.

The transition to college will bring with it more than just new ways to shoot a rifle, though, as Thomas will need to adjust quickly to a whole new world of living and academic standards.

“It’s a big step in life. Just different changes,” Thomas admitted. 

Amid all the changes, Thomas will still have his familiar world of shooting as an old friend to come to when times get difficult. 

“It’s going to be difficult with classes and everything,” Thomas noted. “It gives me something to fall back on. Sort of a stress reliever.”

Fortunately for Thomas, practice starts Aug. 18 and the season runs throughout the spring with practices 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. every week day with competitions on Saturday and Sunday.

Although much of Thomas’ time will be taken up with practice and competition, education is still a priority to this student-athlete. For now, Thomas plans on pursuing a degree in criminal justice with the intent of working in law enforcement after college. 

As per the usual, Thomas will start college taking core classes such as math, English and philosophy before getting into any classes for the major.

With such incredible goals and worthwhile career expected after college, Thomas is ready to put the summer vacation behind him and get to work preparing his future, both athletically and academically.

“I’m just ready to get started,” Thomas concluded.

In time, this local athlete might represent Barrow County on the global stage just as well as he already has all across the country.



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