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Beyond The Clays: 2017 SSSF National Championships

Beyond The Clays: 2017 SSSF National Championships

“We are looking at the future,” Chris Hodgdon said as his hand swept like a conductor’s baton in an arc toward the line of trap fields. Hundreds of young shooters were pulverizing clay targets, laughing and speaking words of support to their teammates.

The 2017 Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP) National Championships are sponsored by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF). The Cardinal Center in Marengo, OH, developed through the magnanimity of the Fishburn family, hosted the event.

Competitive shooters, ages 8 to 23 from 32 states, competed for national titles in the shotgun disciplines of American Trap, Handicap Trap, Bunker Trap, Trap Doubles, Skeet, Skeet Doubles and Sporting Clays. Pistol and rifle competitors competed for steel shooting titles in Rimfire Pistol, Centerfire Pistol, Iron Sight Rifle and Optics Rifle divisions. About 2,700 athletes from 33 states competed and a mind-blowing 1.26 million shots were fired in the competition events. One hundred and five SCTP student athletes will receive scholarships totaling $83,000.

Many teams were created by the desire of a parent to enable their child to shoot responsibly and routinely. Young shooters are attracted to these sports―they love to shoot, value opportunities to improve, welcome the challenges, and unlike most sportsthey can participate in them throughout their lives.

The Cardinal Center's vast property was lush and green with stands of hardwoods and cornfields, the earth’s fragrance more alluring than the finest perfumes. The range was a beehive of activity. Electric carts darted about like bugs on a pond and hundreds of shooters carried shotguns as nonchalantly as if holding bags of popcorn. Anna Van Nostrand, instructor and CZ representative, crafted a beautiful insightful phrase: “This is an environment of positivity.”

Dave Miller, CZ’s shotgun manager and exhibition shooter, shot his way into the Guinness Book of Records by breaking 3,653 clays in 60 minutes. CZ has been a Platinum sponsor of the championship for five years. Dave tutored shooters on disciplines including sporting clays, make-or-break, and crazy-quail.

These programs require great effort. Ben Berka, president and executive director of SSSF, and Louise Terry, chairman of the SSSF board, told attendees of the thousands of hours of organizing the event and the engagement of hundreds of volunteers. But it’s all worth it, they said. The youngsters are learning skills, get outside away from iPhones and, most significantly, develop a dedication to the American heritage and an appreciation for individual liberty. “The SSSF is about more than just breaking pieces of clay,” Louise remarked.

Support for SSSF signifies a commitment to the future of competitive shooting. Companies and organizations such as CZ-USA, Hodgdon Powder, NRA and Fiocchi USA are among those that help. The future of the shooting sports looks very bright indeed.

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