Scholastic Trapshooting Rapidly Growing in Sooner State
Zane Scrivner of Sequoyah (Claremore) Public Schools took individual first place in the male senior division. Photo Credit: ODWC
A little more than 365 days ago, El Reno, Okla., made the national news cycle for a somewhat dubious distinction.
That came following a deadly twister on May 31, 2013, when a massive Sooner State tornado put El Reno into the record books.
While the tornado only affected the perimeter of the medium-size community just west of Oklahoma City, the storm was violent enough to snuff out the lives of eight people as it grew to become the largest tornado ever recorded, a 2.6-mile-wide monster with Doppler measured wind speeds of nearly 300 miles per hour.
This May, the picturesque community in the Southern Great Plains was back in the news, albeit for a much more desirable reason that produced a lot of laughter and friendly competitive smiles.
That's because more than 40 schools were represented at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports State Shoot, an event that brought hundreds of high school students together from all parts of the Sooner State.
Altus took first place in the team senior division. Photo Credit: ODWC
A part of the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program (OKSSSP), the relatively new event is a trap-based shotgun program designed to instill confidence and self-esteem in the students that participate.
Modeled after similar programs including the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation administered trapshooting program aims to teach students to responsibly handle and safely shoot firearms at a competitive level.
"The OKSSSP has proven to be immensely popular among the state schools that have joined the program," said Damon Springer, a senior information and education specialist with the ODWC.
"Not only are students given the chance to learn about firearms and gun safety, but the schools receive financial support from endowment funds that they receive for participating in the program," added Springer, who is also the coordinator of the OKSSSP.
"The endowment funds are made possible because of the generous support of Larry and Brenda Potterfield and the MidwayUSA Foundation's Team Endowment Account Program."
Potterfield indicated that he is ready and willing to help foster interest in the shooting sports.
"Brenda and I are so blessed to be able to give financial support to youth shooting sports throughout the country and are happy to contribute to the success of Oklahoma's Scholastic Shooting Sports Program," said Larry Potterfield, MidwayUSA founder and CEO, in a news release.
"Youth are the future of shooting sports and we are so glad to have a part in helping to sustain youth shooting programs in Oklahoma."
Stilwell took second place in the team senior division. Photo Credit: ODWC
In addition to the support of the Potterfields and the MidwayUSA Foundation, others making generous contributions to the launch and success of the OKSSSP shooting program include the Oklahoma Station of Safari Club International and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
Launched less than a year ago in the waning stages of last summer, what was once 20 pilot schools has already grown to include nearly 50 schools from across the state.
At the initial trapshooting competition held last November, a total of 306 students from 20 schools competed in the event. At the spring event held in El Reno last month, those figures had grown to include some 659 students from 44 schools competing on the trapshooting field.
According to an ODWC news release, the most recent competition last month saw more than 16,000 rounds fired from competitors who were shooting at the shotgun trapshooting event.
Locust Grove took first place in the team junior division. Photo Credit: ODWC
In the Junior Division, the Locust Grove team proved to be the top school while Verden took the runner-up spot and Howe earned a third-place finish.
In the Senior Division, Altus won the event while Stilwell, Depew, Sequoyah and Keys rounded out the event's Top-5 schools.
"It was a pretty windy day even for Oklahoma with winds gusting from the south at 20 to 35 miles an hour throughout the entire day," said Springer in a news release.
"However, even under these adverse conditions, there were three high school boys that shot perfect scores by breaking all 25 targets," he added.
"Zane Scrivner from Sequoyah, Zach Pyle from Altus, and Terry Linn from Howe all ended up in (a) shoot-off for first through third place. Zane ended up in first, Zach took second and Terry ended up in third."
While there was certainly ample school pride - not to mention individual and team awards - on the line at the May 2014 event, thanks to the endowment, there were bragging rights at stake too.
Springer indicated that every high school team participating in the event received $2,500 in endowment funds. High school teams that finished in first through fifth place received additional endowment funds ranging from $5,000 for first place on down to $1,000 for fifth place.
He noted that each team with endowment money is able to draw up to five percent each year for use on team expenditures such as ammo, range fees, uniforms, travel expenses, etc.
Springer told ODWC state officials at a recent wildlife commission meeting in Oklahoma City that he expects the popular program to continue growing.
Future plans include the addition of 35 more high schools, the holding of regional shooting competitions, and the institution of a bracket-style tournament format for the OKSSSP state shoot next year.