STRAIGHT SHOOTER Vir­ginia high-schooler ex­cels in fast-grow­ing trap­shoot­ing sport

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. - BY ANJALI SHASTRY

Lind­say Martin first picked up a ri­fle to go deer hunt­ing with her fa­ther, but it was an af­ter­noon she spent with him a year later, shoot­ing clay pi­geons in her backyard, that set her pas­sion for shoot­ing sports.

The ris­ing se­nior at Glen Allen High School in Vir­ginia is now es­tab­lish­ing her­self as a com­pet­i­tive shooter with Olympic as­pi­ra­tions. Her own school doesn’t have a team, so she joined the Dusters, a trap­shoot­ing team at nearby Fort Lee. Her fa­ther is the coach, she is the only girl on the team, and she’s a ris­ing star.

“Peo­ple know me as the shot­gun shooter,” the 17-year-old said.

She’s one of thou­sands of teens who have picked up the sport in re­cent years, mak­ing it one of the fastest-grow­ing sports for high schools. But it’s also pop­u­lar with com­mu­nity teams, such as the Dusters.

Tom Won­drash, na­tional di­rec­tor of Scholas­tic Clay Tar­get Pro­gram, a branch of the Scholas­tic Shoot­ing Sports Foun­da­tion (SSSF), thinks that the sport’s rapid growth is due to its in­clu­siv­ity and op­por­tu­nity for par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“What sep­a­rates shoot­ing sports from stick-and-ball sports is that when it’s time for our kids to go to a tour­na­ment, all the kids can com­pete — heavy, thin, tall, short, fast, slow, boy or girl — it doesn’t make them any dif­fer­ent,” Mr. Won­drash said. “That’s what re­ally lends it­self to our sport.”

The SSSF has pro­grams in 42 states and has seen par­tic­i­pa­tion grow from about 6,000 stu­dents four years ago to 13,000 now, Mr. Won­drash said.

Com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing has be­come so pop­u­lar and ac­cepted in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties that some high schools award var­sity letters for trap­shoot­ing. Na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions like the SSSF help stu­dents as­sem­ble teams, train coaches to teach ath­letes how to safely fire a gun and or­ga­nize com­pe­ti­tions and cham­pi­onships for teams.

Lind­say’s team, es­tab­lished through SSSF, has stayed about the same size, with 10 stu­dents, but she said she’s seen an in­crease in in­ter­est out­side of school. She is a fan of women learn­ing to shoot, and even teaches women how to fire a shot­gun at her lo­cal gun range in Charles City County.

The USA State High School Clay Tar­get League, another trap­shoot­ing youth or­ga­ni­za­tion, works slightly dif­fer­ently than SSSF. While SSSF en­cour­ages com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions in ad­di­tion to the school­rec­og­nized teams, the USA State High School Clay Tar­get League en­sures that all of their teams are in­cor­po­rated into the school’s ex­tracur­ric­u­lar of­fer­ings.

In the past eight years, they have seen their mem­ber­ship jump from 30 kids to al­most 10,000. Some teams have as few as five ath­letes, and oth­ers have more than 80. The teams are coed, and stu­dents with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties are welcome. Teams only com­pete against other teams of sim­i­lar sizes.

“It’s the safest high school sport,” John Nel­son, the league’s vice pres­i­dent, said. “In 14 years we’ve never had an in­jury. None what­so­ever. We’ve put more than 24,000 stu­dents through the pro­gram, pulled the trig­ger more than 12 mil­lion times, and never had an in­jury.”

The league is lo­cated in only three states — Min­nesota, Wis­con­sin and North Dakota — and is ex­pand­ing to three more within the next year.

Lind­say spe­cial­izes in trap­shoot­ing, which is shoot­ing clay pi­geons as they fly away from the shooter. The sport is a cousin of skeet shoot­ing and sport­ing clays, sim­i­lar events where the “birds” are flung from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

Lind­say’s pre­ferred gun is a Krieghoff K-80, which she uses for trap, skeet and sport­ing clays, switch­ing out the bar­rels to change the gauge to fit the event.

Her fa­ther, Richard Martin, not only coaches the Dusters but is in­volved with the lo­cal 4-H club in Four Rivers, which has in­creased the num­ber of young shoot­ers on its team to ac­com­mo­date the in­ter­est. He said other lo­cal 4-H clubs have wait­lists of chil­dren ea­ger to take up the sport.

“I didn’t ac­tu­ally com­pete prior to [Lind­say],” Mr. Martin said. “Once she started show­ing such a knack for it, such a nat­u­ral abil­ity, that’s when we got in­volved and started look­ing around.”

Con­sid­er­ing the main ath­letic equip­ment for the sport is a gun, there has not been a lot of back­lash to school-spon­sored trap­shoot­ing from gun con­trol ad­vo­cates. For ex­am­ple, gun con­trols in Bri­tain are so strict that its Olympic shoot­ing team had to train for the 2012 Lon­don Olympics abroad,

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY SKIP ROW­LAND/SPE­CIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lind­say Martin, a se­nior at Glen Allen High School in Glen Allen, Vir­ginia, is hon­ing her shoot­ing skills in the hopes of mak­ing the U.S. Olympic team. Lind­say is among those who are try­ing their hand at com­pet­i­tive shoot­ing, a sport that is based on skilled abil­ity, not ath­letic vir­tu­os­ity.

Gun con­trol groups are not tak­ing ex­cep­tion to trap­shoot­ing be­cause it takes place in a con­trolled, su­per­vised en­vi­ron­ment.

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