Rayven Fincher, 16 (right), a sophomore at Monroe Area High School, poses with her competition air rifle and Air Force JROTC SMSgt. Clay Slaton at their indoor training facility in Monroe, Georgia, on May 2, 2017. Fincher took the state champion title at “The Dixie Double” at Fort Benning and only missed qualifying for the Junior Olympics by one point. After breaking her spine in a car accident last year and losing nearly six months of practice time, her trajectory is unmatched, and she hopes to continue it and qualify for the Olympics one day. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)
Photo: Henry P. Taylor
Photo: Henry P. Taylor

High school riflery player of the year

Riflery Player of the Year

Rayven Fincher, Monroe Area

Achievements: 2017 Riflery individual state champion

Height: 5-foot-2

Class: Sophomore

College choices: I have looked into a couple of different colleges, some with shooting and some without. I have looked into the Air Force Academy, Georgia Southern and Florida State University. All three of those schools have shooting programs. The one that I looked into that doesn’t have rifle is the Art Institute in Atlanta.

Why those schools: I narrowed it down to those because of the shooting programs that they have, and I know the coaches relatively well. Some of the coaches come to some of the matches and stuff, either with their teams or just to come help out at the match. I have had opportunities to talk to them and learn more about their programs. I also train up at North Georgia with the North Georgia team on occasion, so I have gotten to know a lot of the team members on different teams. That has helped me choose what schools I have looked into. You know, if the team isn’t good or they don’t get along well, then the team isn’t going to achieve much, and that is a big part of it.

Best high school moment: I would have to say that my best moment had to be when I won state this past Saturday. Just because of the feeling of accomplishing it and knowing, after everything that I have been through, that I was there and was able to achieve what I did. Last year, in March, I broke my spine. I was in a car wreck and was nearly paralyzed. So it’s just I am excited that I am able to do this. I was out of training for six months after the car wreck. So I never thought that I would be able to shoot again. I did not get to go to state last year because of it. This year, I worked hard because I was just happy about being able to shoot again. So when I got to state, I was just so excited that I was there that I wasn’t worried about winning or losing. I was just happy to be there and to be able to have that experience. I wasn’t anxious or worried or anything, I was just calm and everything worked out perfect because I wasn’t nervous. A lot of the shooters were nervous and wanted to win so badly that it messed them up. But with me, I was just happy to be there.

Why riflery: In the fifth grade, I really wanted to shoot archery, for some reason. I just really wanted to. So I tried out for a couple of different teams, but they wouldn’t accept me because, I’m a fairly small person. I was extremely small in the fifth grade. So I wasn’t able to pull back the bow, and no one really worked with me. So out of spite, I joined the 4-H BB team because they accepted anyone. The coaches there really worked with me and helped me. They got me involved in the sport. So then I moved up to the Sporter air rifle in the seventh grade. In seventh and eighth grades we won the national championships for the BB team. In the summer of my eighth-grade year I moved up to precision rifles, and that’s how I got here.

What you’d like to be doing in 10 years: In 10 years, I plan to be an Olympic champion. That is the pathway I want to take. I want to train hard and work hard and make it to the Olympics and, you know, take home the gold. I have trained with a lot of different coaches and I have talked to a lot of people. People like George Norton, who competed in the Olympics, I have trained with him. I have just talked about the matches that they’ve been in and talked about what it takes. I know that if I train hard and keep at it and keep gaining new experiences in new matches, that I will be able to make it to the Olympics. If you’ve never been in the spot of winning a match, then you don’t know what to expect and you’re more nervous. But once you have shot so much and won so many matches and once you get to the big ones, like the Olympics, then it seems easy.

Favorite high school course: I would have to say social studies because there are so many perspectives from history that you could see it from many sides and still be correct. There are so many points of views with history. You could read documents from a woman or a man in the 1800s and her experiences. And there are just so many different ways to interpret history. You could be right, and you could be wrong.

People who helped along the way: Well, starting with BB, it was my coach William Carlin for 4-H. They taught me gun safety and really got me into the sport. BB is where it all started in the fifth or sixth grade, right around there. For Sporter, it was Mr. Bell Peters, and he introduced me to my coaches I have now — Al Bowen and Niel Pratt, of the Hardcore Four team, the private club team that I am on. Plus I have Lt. Col. Rozier with the high school and the sergeant who retired last year, Sgt. Williams. They’ve all just helped me, either after the car wreck when I was hurt, and they helped me get on my feet.

Toughest high school opponent: I’d have to say the guys from the East Coweta team because their scores are always right with mine. They’re always difficult to beat. I have experienced beating them, and our scores are always right together and you never know who is going to the be the champion when competing with them.

Favorite movie: My favorite movie, I don’t know. What’s that movie with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio … “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” That is a good one.

Favorite song: The one I am listening to most right now is “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles.

Worst high school moment: It would have to be March of last year when I had my car wreck. Then the Sunday after, so Easter Sunday, my parents split up. So that was a pretty rough time.

If you could be any athlete on earth: Um, I honestly don’t think I would want to be another athlete. I know what I enjoy doing and I don’t want someone else’s accomplishments. I want to accomplish my own goals. Some athletes have different career choices. And it just … I don’t think I could be another athlete.

Money or happiness: Oh, well, happiness. Because if you can surround yourself with people that you love and you do what you love, then no amount of money can compare to being happy. No amount of money in the world. So as long as you feel happy, feel like you’ve accomplished something and you did good in the world and you’re surrounded by the ones you love, no amount of money can compare to that.

Best word to describe yourself: I would have to say charming.

View of the world at this moment: Well, the world is in a rough place. But it is full of opportunities, yet still harsh. With wars and racism and all of this really other horrible stuff. But it is full of opportunities, and that is what I kind of try to look for. Opportunities that I can achieve and go for to try to make the world a better place. Because I know that if everyone does their part and works together then the world can be a utopia of sorts.

What you would put in a time capsule: Oh man, I am not sure. I think I have my very first competition target from the fifth grade, and I think I would put that in there. Because that is where it all started. I think I’ll just stick with the first match target.