"For the first couple of days, Noah and Natalie traded first-place finishes in the events they entered," Shank said. "In the end, Noah ended up first in the Sub-Junior class and Natalie ended up third."
Two weeks ago, Barker fired a 1,578 score (of 1,600 possible) to win a prone dual match between the Putnam County junior club and the all-adult Mason-Dixon Rifle club. Barker finished five points ahead of Morgantown's Carl Flowers, widely acknowledged to be one of the state's best shooters.
This year, Barker's preparation for the National Matches will be interrupted by a mid-June bear-hunting trip to Canada. After that, though, he plans to practice with a vengeance.
Once at Camp Perry, Barker will step up to the Intermediate Junior category, and will compete not only in prone matches, but also in three-position matches like those shot in collegiate and international competition.
Shank believes Barker will compete strongly, but doesn't expect him to advance to a Master rating as quickly as he advanced to Expert.
"To earn a Master rating in one year is a big jump," Shank said. "I expect Noah to get there well before he gets to college, but probably not this year."
Barker said he would like to earn a rifle scholarship to West Virginia University or the University of Kentucky, but knows he has to improve in the three-position discipline before the coaches there will give him a look.
"I also have to get a lot better at air rifle," he added.
His progress at air rifle has been hindered in part by the equipment he uses. Because it mainly focuses on .22-caliber smallbore shooting, the Putnam County team has only beginner-level air rifles. Shooters who wish to upgrade must do it themselves.
To help pay for a high-grade air rifle, Barker knows he's going to have to mow a lot of lawns, just as he did when he purchased his Olympic-grade smallbore rifle. To him, it's just another part of the commitment he's made to the sport.
According to Barker's mother, Jo, it's the sort of commitment her son makes to just about everything he enjoys.
"He's as dedicated to his school work as he is to rifle," she said. "He maintained a perfect 4.0 grade-point average through all three years of middle school, and earned the President's Outstanding Academic Excellence Award.
"I'm particularly proud of what he's done with rifle, because the sport takes so much focus and concentration. Those qualities will take him a long way."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.