Iliana Ramos breaks down borders on Bruin clay shooting team

Jack Clements, Guest Contributor

SARDIS, MISSISSIPPI – More than fifty high school clay shooting teams from across Mississippi, including St. Joseph, gathered at McIvor Shooting Facility in Sardis for the first state qualifier shoot. Participants in squads of three shot at 100 targets, and were scored both individually and by squad based on the number of targets hit. This qualifier shoot, the first of two leading up to the state championship set to take place in 2021, was spread out over four days (November 11-14) due to the sheer number of participants. According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks website, there are fifty-four schools and a total of 893 students participating in the 2020-2021 season.

Clay shooters Clifton Goodloe and Landon Maynor

St. Joe has had a clay shooting team since 2017, and it usually attracts about twenty-or-so students from grades seven through twelve. Unlike most high school sports teams, clay shooting is co-ed, however, it is not an even split. The team is comprised nearly entirely of male students, even though females are strongly encouraged to join. Since the team’s inception, St. Joe has had a total of three female clay shooters. This year there is only one girl on the team: Iliana Ramos. Ramos is not only the sole female shooter on St. Joe’s team, she was also the only female in sight, aside from parents, at the qualifying shoot. This did not deter her though, at the qualifying shoot she shot a personal best of 75, beating out most of the boys on the team.

Clay shooting is clearly not as popular among women as it is among men, at least in the tri-county area. When asked how she became involved with the sport Ramos said, “When I was in 7th grade, I had a family friend who shot, and one afternoon, he offered to let me try alongside him,” and she’s been shooting ever since. “I tried it one time, and I was hooked,” Ramos said, “I had found a sport I was truly passionate about.”

This passion did not come easily at first. As with any sport, just starting out can be very intimidation, especially if you are not very good at first, as most are when starting something brand new. This intimidation can increase exponentially if you are the only girl doing it. Ramos explains that while she loved what she was doing, “I was very intimidated by the fact that I never saw any other women on the shooting field.” Ramos did not let this stop her. She kept her head high and kept right on breaking targets even though some people were skeptical of the idea of a female clay shooter. “I have definitely encountered people who think differently of me as a shooter because I am a girl,” Ramos said. “I was never discouraged from shooting but I was never encouraged in the same way that my brother was encouraged when we were kids.”

Attitudes like that are common on and around the shooting field. Ramos says she has learned to deal with it, and while nobody has been out right nasty to her on the field, certain comments do not go unfelt. “There’s guys who act like it’s a miracle every time I hit anything, like they expect me to be terrible,” she says. This type of condescension has been a hard thing for her to overcome, since she does not fit the typical image of the clay shooter. Ramos says that it will not stop her, she loves the sport, and nobody will take that away from her, even is she is a woman in a sport full of men.

When asked what it took to keep going, Iliana said, “thick skin and confidence,” she went on to say, “even though I feel somewhat isolated being the only woman, I will continue shooting.” Ramos also actively encourages other women to join the team, or any other team they so choose. “Take the plunge and find somewhere to participate. Even if you not fit the stereotype of that activity, whether it be shooting, dance, etc., if you want to do it, go for it,” she says. Shooters like Iliana Ramos are beacons of hope and inspiration to women and girls everywhere, proving that she can do whatever she wants even if it goes against sexist stereotypes.