Five years ago seems like so long ago for Jack Gerstmeier. At the age of 10½, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. The diagnosis meant from now on he would require at least four shots a day to control his blood sugar.
The diabetes wore at Gerstmeier both mentally and physically. He quit playing volleyball and basketball because it was very hard to control his diabetes early on. He was at the age where hormones and growth spurts wreak havoc on normal middle school boys, but trying to control blood sugars while your body begins that process is a challenge all in itself. Sports were no longer an important part of his daily life.
Gradually things improved as he adjusted to his new normal. A year into Gerstmeier’s diagnosis he began receiving insulin via pump, which eliminated the multiple insulin shots each day. Things were slowly getting easier.
Knowing how important it is to be active and involved, Gerstmeier was asked by his dad if he had any interest in trap shooting. His grandparents had been league trap shooters at the Waukesha Gun Club while his dad was growing up. Excited to give it a try, Gerstmeier was ready to find something he could be good at.
Three years later, Gerstmeier is now a varsity trap shooter for Poplar Creek Claybusters. He started at the intermediate level while in eighth grade. He traveled throughout southeastern Wisconsin shooting in tournaments and improving his skills that season. In June 2016, he went to Rome, WI, to shoot in the SCTP State Trap Tournament. He participated in the 21-yard intermediate handicap and took third place.
While continuing to shoot trap for a second season, Gerstmeier was asked to try out for a pistol and rifle team. He joined Lake Country Action Shooters (LCAS) in May 2017. He immediately began practice and in June, joined LCAS at State in Sturgeon Bay, WI. This would be his first pistol and rifle competition and the weather was a great challenge to him. Many of the teams opted to wait out the storm. Gerstmeier’s coach insisted they persevere, if they could shoot in this they could shoot in anything. The team walked away with two first place ribbons for center fire pistol and optic rifle. It was quite an accomplishment considering he had only been with the team a few weeks.
Just six weeks after state, LCAS traveled to SASP Nationals in Marengo, OH. Gerstmeier and his JV squad walked away with three first place ribbons in optic rifle, iron rifle, and centerfire pistol and a second place in 1911. He returned to Marengo again in October this time as a member of the varsity squad and came home with four first place medals.
To improve upon the success from the year before with Poplar Creek, Gerstmeier’s junior varsity Squad took first place in the NWCTC Eastern Division Conference. Jack continued to improve, putting up some personal bests.
With all the successes with his shooting teams last season, in August 2017 Gerstmeier received the “artificial pancreas” This is still not a cure for type 1 diabetes, but definitely a game changer for him. His continual blood sugar roller coaster episodes have nearly disappeared. His new pump regulates his blood sugar aided by a glucose monitor that takes readings every five minutes and decides to give or not give him insulin based on the numbers. He is finally starting to feel normal again, thanks to advances in medical technology.
Gerstmeier is off to a great start again this year with both Poplar Creek Claybusters and LCAS. For the first time in years, he has had two 24/25 rounds this week. He is aiming for that 25/25 perfect round. He continues to work on reducing his time with pistol and rifle as he shoots at the varsity level this year. Gerstmeier looks forward to finishing this season strong in both disciplines, while looking ahead to the future. He continues to manage type 1 diabetes through technology and self-discipline and is not going to let it stop him from achieving his goals.
Gerstmeier credits the SSSF organizations for providing alternative sports for today’s youth. The coaching he has received in both disciplines and his continued development has given him a new level of confidence. Coaching and training along with his new pump allow him to walk up to the line not as a diabetic—but as a competitor.