Community Sports

Warriors return to national shooting competition

Warriors team member Dakota Littlefield and her Long Range gun, affectionately named "Persephone" outside her home on June 6.
Warriors team member Dakota Littlefield and her Long Range gun, affectionately named "Persephone" outside her home on June 6. Courtesy of Juniors AIM

Seven members of the Whatcom Warriors will go up against hundreds of other youth in both military and recreational teams to compete for national and international shooting championship titles.

The Warriors will be going to the National Rifle and Pistol Championships, hosted by the NRA at Camp Perry, from July 14 to Aug. 5. Two of the members are then going on to represent the United States Under-25 team at the World Long Range Championship from Aug. 7-14.

Dakota Littlefield, 17, of Bellingham and Luke Rettmer, 16, of Ferndale both went to the national championships last year. This is their first time going to worlds, which takes place every four years.

“My goal is to keep shooting and keep getting better,” Rettmer said. “No one is a perfect shot and I won’t be, but I want to keep gaining skills.”

Competition is a learning experience because the groups who compete come from varied backgrounds. Some teams, like the Warriors, are there for fun. Others are military teams or people in youth ROTC programs who see the competition as preparation, Littlefield said.

“I see other juniors at nationals who plan on going into the military and they practice as hard as we do, but for us it’s about fun,” she said.

The competitions are taking place at the Camp Perry Military Reservation, on Lake Erie in Ohio. Seminars and classes will be held during the day to teach safety and how to develop skills such as adjusting for wind when shooting. Littlefield is grateful for the opportunity to participate in competition, it is an honor to simply be there, she said.

Joanna Littlefield, Dakota’s mother, has invested herself in the junior shooting community by creating a nonprofit organization called Juniors Advancing In Marksmanship. Juniors AIM strives to make shooting accessible to youth through safety, training, and funding assistance, she said.

“Keeping these things free is really important to us,” Joanna said. “Sports are expensive and there are a lot of kids who can’t afford it.”

Her favorite thing about shooting is the ability for women to excel because, unlike some other sports, the gender playing field is on much more even ground, she said.

Describing herself as the team mom, who will chaperone the competitors to Ohio and ensure meals are eaten and schedules are held, Joanna has been impressed by the discipline and responsibility she has seen develop in the youth through this sport.

Many of the team members only come together for practice or competition, because their paths likely would not have crossed otherwise, Dakota said. Despite differences, the team is close and supportive, willing to help each other get better.

Each day at nationals will be another competition, some of them based on group scoring and some individual, but even when shooting against team members, everyone is rooting for each other to do well, she said.

Both Rettmer and Dakota have been impressed with the support they have been shown by the community.

“I haven’t experienced much discrimination against shooting around here,” Rettmer said. “If I’m wearing my shirt from nationals last year, people actually come up to me and ask about it and congratulate me.”

Rettmer began recreational shooting when he was very young. One of his first memories is being taught to shoot by his parents in the backyard where he grew up in Ferndale.

“I want to go farther than just shooting in the backyard,” he said. “That is why I joined the team, to get more experience.”

Dakota had never picked up a gun until three and a half years ago when a friend invited her to the Custer Sportsmen’s Club and she discovered her natural talent. Since then she has dedicated hundreds of hours to getting better and is thankful to the coaches who put so much time and energy into working with the team, she said.

“I don’t see myself going into a job that uses any of my skills in the shooting world,” Dakota said. “But I wouldn’t call it a hobby. I’ve put more into it than that.”

National Rifle and Pistol Championship

When: July 14-August 5

Team: Washington Warriors

Garrett Brown, 17 (Bellingham)

Melissa Rauch, 17 (Ferndale)

Dakota Littlefield, 17 (Bellingham)

Luke Rettmer, 16 (Ferndale)

Jimmy Horton, 15 (Ferndale)

Noah Horton, 13 (Ferndale)

World Long Range Championship

When: August 7-14

Team: Palma

Brianna Rachinski, 18 (Lynden)

Dakota Littlefield, 17 (Bellingham)

Luke Rettmer, 16 (Ferndale)