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Wrapping up from Sparta — 2015 Nationals

By Paul Erhardt, Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network

When the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Scholastic Pistol Program (SPP) 2015 National Team Championships came to a close Saturday evening, the assembled crowd of parents, coaches and school-aged shooters was a far cry from the vibrating mass of smiles and excitement of the previous Thursday night’s opening ceremonies.

It was more a sea of tired faces.

But honestly, who could blame them. For many the championship week began on Monday, or earlier for those driving in from out of state. And while the weather gods overlooking Sparta provided shooters with almost constant sunshine in which to shoot, the average temperature was somewhere around ‘oven’ – just with more humidity.

Cooling off during the Saturday awards ceremony was the order of the day as temperatures in Sparta reached the level of oven. Photo by P. Erhardt

So, tired was the general mood Saturday evening but that doesn’t mean everybody wasn’t happy to be there and had a great time.

Amber Rasmussen reached Ironwoman status shooting over 1,100 targets while competing in every event at the SCTP/SPP Nationals. Photo by P. Erhardt

By all accounts this was a great year for SCTP and SPP with new record highs of participation, including from young women, as noted here last Friday. One of those women, whose competition schedule explained why one would be tired at the end of the week, was Amber Rasmussen.

Rasmussen, who is with the Union Grove Broncos Shooting Club team out of Union Grove, Wisconsin, shot every single championship event: Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap, Handicap Trap, Doubles Trap, Doubles Skeet and Speed Shooting. That’s 1,100 competition targets plus another 100 on steel plates.

And that doesn’t include any practice targets or side matches and games, of which there were plenty on the grounds of the World Shooting & Recreation Complex.

Annually Amber shoots around 5,000 rounds in practice, which makes this past week the equivalent of packing 11 weeks worth of shooting into just six days. Amber, and others like her, deserved to be a bit worn out after six straight days of competition.

Since its start back in 2001, SCTP has seen throngs of kids pass through the program with no shortage of them speaking with that distinctive accent of the Volunteer State. That Tennessee leads all states in participation at the National Team Championships isn’t a surprise. What is a surprise is the level of support the program receives from the State.

There are three SCTP Directors working for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation (TWRF), the non-profit arm of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and one newly appointed SPP Director.

Lacey Lane is the latest to take on the responsibility of expanding your shooting sports in the Volunteer State. Photo by P. Erhardt

Lacey Lane of McKenzie, Tennessee, grew up in the youth shooting program so when the TWRF wanted to put more focus on growing its pistol program they turned to her. With plenty of energy that seems to come from equal parts enthusiasm and Volunteer State pride, Lane worked the SPP Nationals overseeing her 109 shooters, which by-the-way accounted for nearly a third (31.6%) of the competitors.

Tennessee State’s commitment to the shooting sports is fairly well known and in the past the State’s Governor has been out to shoot with an SCTP squad or two. However, the most recent evidence of their commitment to all things guns came last September when Beretta broke ground in Gallatin for Beretta U.S.A.’s new campus and manufacturing facility.

However, after having met Lane in person and seeing her drive to expand SPP back home, her hiring by TWRF might be a bigger deal than the Beretta announcement…at least I wouldn’t bet against it.

There will be no free ride to the front of the SPP pack for Tennessee if Wisconsin’s Rick Leach has anything to say about it. He’s building a strong program within the Badger State with an eye on being the top state in terms of total SPP participation. Photos by P. Erhardt

While Tennessee has bragging rights, Wisconsin’s Rick Leach, coach of the Ozaukee Scholastic Shooting Sports pistol team, has a goal. Tennessee has approximately 135 total SPP participants, putting it ahead of Wisconsin, but just barely.

Leach is gunning for the spot of top state in the program, as well as a spot or two on the Nationals podium. This past week his teams took first in Collegiate Centerfire and fourth in Junior Centerfire, but more importantly he had 10 of his 13 kids shoot their personal best during their run for the title, proving to both him and his squad that when the pressure is on Wisconsin brings its A-game. Look for the Badger State, and its A-game, to be back next year and, in force.

So, after six days of non-stop gun fire (the good kind) what do we know? We know that SCTP and SPP are, excuse the pun, booming. We know that shooting sports continues to go mainstream as more high schools field teams and states officially support the program. We know more young women are picking up a shotgun or pistol and standing alongside the guys for their share of national honors.

We also know that it takes about 872,500 targets to feed the competitive demands of 2,466 title hungry shooters.

Whatever happened to the high five? The fist bump has become the unofficial congratulatory gesture at the SCTP/SPP National Team Championships, and with 872,500 targets thrown that’s a lot of fist bumping. Photo by P. Erhardt

That’s a lot of White Flyer clays (the official target of the SCTP Nationals). It also means at least 872,500 shotgun rounds, because there’s no point in throwing a target if you aren’t going to shoot at it. Right?

To find out the inside scoop on the ammo, I made my way to the Shell House to speak with Grayson Pare of Gamaliel who is the Shell House manager. Gamaliel runs the Shell House for this event, and the Grand American, and amidst the stacked pallets of shotgun ammo in various load configurations you’ll find brands Clever, Estate, Federal, Nobel Sport, Remington, Rio and Winchester.

The obvious question, though, and the one I put to Pare, was which are the top brands? The answer proved my assumptions were only half right. Clever, a brand imported from Italy recently picked up by Gamaliel, and Winchester, with their famed AA, led the pack. As to why this was the case, Pare explained the pricing.

Winchester AA and Italy’s Clever are top of the charts at the SCTP Nationals according to Gamaliel’s Grayson Pare who ran the Shell House. Photo by P. Erhardt

Shotshells at the Shell House are sold by box or by case with pricing ranging from $6.00 a box ($60 a case) up to $8.70 a box ($87 a case). Clever was selling for $60 a case while Winchester AA was selling for $80. However, Winchester was offering a $20 mail-in rebate per case. This promo propelled them to the top selling shotshell at the SCTP Nationals because, well, AA…for $6.00…duh!

Trophies galore are handed out each year in Sparta as the top young shooting in the country gather to compete. Sign up to join in on the fun. Photo by P. Erhardt

If SCTP and SPP sound like programs you’d like to get involved with, or you want to take a crack at your share of the mountain of trophies handed out, visit the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Governing Body for both programs, at www.SSSFonline.org and make plans to head to Sparta July 11-16 of next year.

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