Editor’s note: Last October, the NRA Whittington Center hosted the first Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA)-NRA sponsored shoot in the past 40 years, which marked a true milestone. Over 100,000 clay targets were thrown at this match, which is slated to become an annual event. The expansion of the shotgun facilities has brought many new competitors to the NRA Whittington Center, which is looking to the future for more events. Learn more at www.nrawc.org.
Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the NRA Whittington Center in Raton, N.M., played host to the first Annual NRA Southwestern Trap Championships over the weekend of October 3-6, 2019. Helping to greet the 186 shooters from 11 states who came to compete in the new event, were NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, joining NRA Board members Ron Schmeits and Tom Arvas, both of whom have served on the Center’s leadership for many years.
The NRA Whittington Center spreads out over 33,000 acres.
Eleven matches christened Whittington’s recently completed 20-station clay target range. Among the large turnout contending with cool and cloudy conditions at the outset, followed by a couple of sunny, windy days, were competitors of all ages, women and men, impressively breaking the tricky, fast-flying clays in a quest for prize money and bragging rights.
Younger shooters were especially evident as six of the state’s seven high school trap teams turned out, bringing a total of 42 student-athletes. Coach Joe Whitehurst of the 4P Trap Club at Melrose (N.M.) High School, commented that a couple of his team members had complained about having to practice in the wind throughout the year. They quickly changed their attitude when Saturday winds gusted into the 30s at the NRA’s flagship shooting complex, which sits above 6,000 feet in the scenic, but rugged mountain landscape.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre talking to members of the Aztec H.S. shooting club.
Competitors also flocked in from surrounding states, including high school senior Zach Piancino, from Elk City, Okla., who competed against both his dad, Dave Piancino, and grandfather, Andrew Piancino. Teen-aged Zach, whose high school squad competes in and has been victorious in national-level tournaments, won the 200 Singles competition with a score of 198 and the Class A 100 Singles with a 98. His score was one over Greg Surber, who collected the Sub-Vet award.
Douglas Doonan’s 89 score earned him the No. 1 Doubles trophy over fellow Sub-Vets Steven DiGesualdo and Mike Herman, who ended up first and second in the category after a coin flip.
As for the main handicap, Kevin Davis set the pace with 92, while Shawn Perkins filled the runner-up spot one point behind. Orrin Burson finished third with a score of 90.
Jarrod Lies, the NRA Whittington Center’s newly hired shotgun director, capitalized on “home field” advantage as he emerged from a three-way shoot-off to garner Class AAA honors against Dalton Jennings and Denis Bringelson. Jennings was the runner-up in that class.
Jarrod Lies (m.) poses with his dad Bryan Lies (l.) and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
An event highlight occurred when Wayne LaPierre delivered an inspirational keynote address at the event’s dinner on Saturday evening. The NRA’s chief executive officer thanked all the competitors and their families for supporting the shooting sports, then spoke how New York state, in a shocking abuse of government power, is endangering our Second Amendment freedoms by threatening to punish companies that do business with the NRA. New York state officials, including the governor and attorney general, have made it known they will come down hard and even try to put those companies out of business. LaPierre also noted that the 2020 elections are going to be an important one hoping that the Democrats won’t win the Senate and the presidency in order to keep the shooting sports alive—as well as to protect gun-owner rights.
NRA Whittington Center
The 2019 Southwestern Trap Championships were held on the several Amateur Trapshooting Association regulation trap fields that are available at the NRA Whittington Center—17 to be exact. These trap fields were used for both the match events and for shooters looking to get in some valuable practice time prior to their shoot times. With just over 33,000 acres, this facility is home to multiple shooting ranges, which includes the aforementioned 17 trap fields, four skeet fields, three sporting-clays courses and two sets of 5-stand.
The Trap line at the NRA Whittington Center.
“The NRA Whittington Center is pleased to be the home of the 2019 NRA Southwestern Trapshooting Championships,” said Whittington Center Chairman Ronald L. Schmeits. “We would like to thank all competitors that come to the facility and experience what the NRA Whittington Center has to offer.”