This week (July 9-16, 2016) the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and the Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP)—the largest national youth shooting competition—will hold its National Championships at the Cardinal Shooting Center near Marengo, Ohio. Some 3,000 young shooters are expected to attend, with coaches, parents, and grandparents swelling the ranks to 10,000 over the eight-day period. Teams from nearly 30 states will be represented.
In recent years, the sprawling Cardinal Shooting Center has become the largest privately-owned shooting facility in America. Featured are 52 trap fields stretching 1.2 miles, 14 skeet fields, 14 action pistol and rifle bays, two sporting-clays ranges, a five-stand sporting range, and bunker trap facility.
Each day’s competitions begin promptly at 8:00 a.m. with the playing of our national anthem over the public-address system. Competitors range in age from grade school through college. SCTP shooters compete in trap, skeet, sporting clays, and bunker trap. SASP shooters compete in action pistol and rifle shooting.
Bunker trap, also known as International Trap, is the most difficult of the shotgun sports, as the clay targets move faster and are thrown at greater angles than in standard trap. Targets can also come from any of three trap machines, rather than just one. In bunker, targets move at a scorching 68 mph, as opposed to 45 mph for standard trap; competitors must have quick reflexes to react in time for a shot.
The Ohio Steel Stingers team arrives on the SASP pistol and rifle range, looking much like Old West gunslingers walking down the main street of town. But behind the stern game faces there could not be a nicer, more friendly group of shooters, coaches, and parents. And although everyone in the various competitions wants to win, all know that the two main priorities are shooting safely and having fun.
A SASP handgun shooter readies himself to hear the beep of the electronic timer and begin firing. This competition tests both speed and accuracy. The official timer and NRA range safety officer is to the shooter’s right (tan shirt), the shooter’s coach is behind him (red shirt).
Marilla Marks (right) gets a congratulatory hug from a teammate after breaking 25 straight skeet targets—her first ever perfect score! And the nationals was a great place and time to do it. A member of the Lowell (Michigan) High School shooting squad, Marks recently graduated so this is her last SCTP competition with the team. Congratulations, Marilla!
Coaching continues on the trap fields, as well, and is always encouraging, positive, and motivating. By participating in competitive shooting sports, young people learn life skills, not just how to break clays or hit steel targets.
Someone to watch in the future is 10-year-old “rookie” shooter Lily Wolf from Hamilton, Ohio, who used her semiautomatic .22 rifle to hit five separate steel targets in just 4.58 seconds from a standing, off-hand shooting position.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has long been a supporting partner of the SCTP and just this year became a supporting partner of the SASP youth shooting program. The NRA also contributes to annual college scholarships awarded to student-athletes from the two programs.
Vendors and displays are always a large part of any National Championship shoot, from gun and ammunition manufacturers, to gunsmiths, to shooting accessories, and of course food. The Kids & Clays Foundation (www.kidsandclays.com) is a community of shooting sports enthusiasts committed to supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities and improving the lives of children and their families. By partnering with sponsors and shooters, Kids & Clays generates funds to help support the operating needs of Ronald McDonald Houses across the nation.
See you next year? If you’d like to attend the 2017 SCTP/SASP National Championships, either as a shooter or coach, and would like more information, contact the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation at www.sssfonline.org.
One of the great things about the shooting sports is that, unlike most other sports, you don’t have to be big, strong, or fast to participate and compete. And shooting is a lifelong activity. If you enjoy pulling a trigger, or would like to find out what all the excitement is about, check out the Scholastic Clay Target Program or Scholastic Action Shooting Program. You don’t even have to own a gun to get involved!