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Riflery Rebirth: State's program a model

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Drizzt, Jan 19, 2003.

  1. Drizzt

    Drizzt Senior Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Moscow on the Colorado, TX
    Riflery Rebirth: State's program a model

    Kent Mitchell - Staff
    Saturday, January 18, 2003

    In small towns across Georgia, rust-covered signs once trumpeted one of the biggest achievements in high school sports: Georgia High School Rifle Champions.

    It was a coveted title from the 1940s through the early 1970s before the sport began to decline.

    Today, those signs are symbolic, not as bittersweet remnants of bygone glory, but of the rebirth of a forgotten sport --- competitive riflery.

    "I would call right now the glory days," said Maj. Larry Pendergrass, state riflery coordinator for the Georgia High School Association.

    Since the introduction in 1992 of air-powered guns and three-position competition (standing, prone, kneeling), the sport has grown from 23 high school teams to 111. And it's no longer just for country boys shooting .22 rifles. Fifty-three metro Atlanta schools are involved, and female shooters dominate the competition.

    "Something unique has happened in Georgia," said Bob Mitchell, the head of USA Shooting, the organization that oversees the country's Olympic and International shooting programs. "Georgia has the best youth shooting education and competition program in the country. I want to use that same model in other states."

    The results speak volumes:

    > High school shooting in the state is so good that 15 Georgians have earned college scholarships in the past two years.

    > The sport is drawing, and welcoming, girls. Girls have participated in the sport since the 1960s, but Pendergrass estimates that 500 of the nearly 1,400 riflery competitors today are female. And they can shoot. Girls have won four of the past five state titles.

    Last season, East Coweta's Amber Crist repeated as state champion, Hardaway's Laura Nickerson was second, and Decatur's Beth Tidmore was third. Tidmore, a freshman at the University of Memphis, was named captain of her college team.

    > Jeremy Drennan, a 16-year-old junior at Union Grove, was presented last Saturday with the Civilian Marksmanship Program's Distinguished Marksman Badge for junior three-position air rifle competition. Only 18 U.S. shooters have accumulated enough points to win the award since its inception in 2000.

    "Since I moved back to Atlanta, I have just been amazed at the number of kids participating in the program," said international shooter Buddy Duvall, 38.

    Duvall moved to Colorado Springs when he was 19 to be close to world-class shooting competition. He moved back to Georgia after the Olympics shooting venue, Wolf Creek, was constructed.

    Statewide riflery competition (using .22 rifles) began at the high school level in 1944. Savannah High dominated the first decade with six championships before the GHSA discontinued the sport from 1956-1964.

    Robert E. Lee of Thomaston won eight of its 16 state titles between 1964-73, then the sport began to decline. Officials say several factors contributed, including the Vietnam anti-war movement and tough federal guidelines that were developed for indoor shooting ranges.

    "I can't say for sure that Vietnam caused the loss of high school rifle teams, but I think Vietnam got some people on an anti-gun thing, and there are some people in the country who are anti-JROTC," Pendergrass said.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency that inspects indoor shooting ranges, continues to restrict competition at ranges that do not meet guidelines in states that use smallbore rifles, Pendergrass said.

    "A lot of existing ranges didn't pass OSHA standards because of fumes [from guns]," Pendergrass said. "A lot of new schools being built didn't include ranges [because of the expense of meeting OSHA standards]."

    Georgia solved the problem by dropping smallbore competition in 1995 and going exclusively to airguns. The sport became cheaper, and the standard 33-foot shooting ranges could be set up anywhere. Pendergrass said his Creekside teams, which won five consecutive titles, were so quiet while practicing in a double classroom building that it was years before custodians knew the school had a team.

    Girls' participation also became a boon because it helped schools meet Title IX requirements.

    "The great thing is that shooting is learned," Mitchell said. "You don't have to be a great athlete; it doesn't matter if you are a man or woman, short or tall."

    Griffin High 18-year-old Jessica McClain, who tied for 18th in last year's state shoot, has been involved with competitive shooting since age 14. She began by shooting BB guns with boys in the neighborhood, then joined Wolf Creek's Young Shooters club.

    She thinks girls' success in the sport should not be surprising.

    "I think girls, as a whole, are better at breathing techniques," she said. "We probably work better under pressure than guys, and sometimes girls listen better than guys and have better attention spans."

    Officials aren't sure where to hold this year's state shoot on April 12 because Wolf Creek has closed. It was a major blow to the high school program to lose one of the best shooting ranges in the world.

    "The loss of Wolf Creek is a big thing," Duvall said. "For high school shooters, it was like the Georgia Dome is for football players."

    In the meantime, the competition continues. And the once forgotten high school sport continues to grow.

    > Course of fire: Competitors stand and shoot lead pellets from .177 caliber rifles at targets 10 meters (about 33 feet) away.
    > Rifle: Air rifles can be either air or gas powered and weigh up to 12.12 pounds.
    > Time: Depending on the type of target-changing system, competitors have either 75 or 80 minutes for 40 shots from the standing position.
    > Bull: Short for bull's-eye. There are 12 bulls per target, 10 for competition and two for sighting shots. The 10 ring is actually a dot in the center of the bull's-eye.
    > Kneeling: Shooting from a kneeling position with the offhand (non-trigger side) supported by the off knee.
    > Offhand: The unsupported standing position (shooting "off the hand" rather than with the non-trigger arm supported on a knee or the floor).
    > Prone: Shooting from a lying position.
    > Relay: Shooters firing the match.

  2. Triad

    Triad Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    I'd like to see the same thing. How do we make it happen?
  3. Dave Williams

    Dave Williams Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    I love The South

    This is just further fuel for that fire.

  4. Raistlin

    Raistlin Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Madison, Ga
    This was a good article. My 11-year-old son is starting archery this year in Georgia's 4-H archery and shotgun program. During the orientation meeting, the guy in charge of the local program said the dean at the University of Georgia who is "over" the archery/shotgun program for the state is looking for any excuse to kill it off. His problem is, the program's only been in operation for three years, and enrollment is more than doubling each year. I guess he can't kill something that's so successful....:D :p
  5. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 19, 2002
    I think this program should be disbanded. I see a Southern conspiracy for Part II of that family feud of the 19th Century. ;) Yeah, now I know what one Southerner meant when he said, "It's not over yet."

    Go Georgia! Show up the woosies who don't have a shooting program.:cool:
  6. Justin

    Justin Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 29, 2002
    Triad, try checking out the website for USA Shooting: http://www.usashooting.com

    Also, here's the email for Bob Mitchell, the guy quoted in the article and the Chief Executive Officer of USA Shooting:
  7. chaim

    chaim Senior Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    This is great news. With all the bad news out there about another lawsuit to drive a gunmaker out of business, a homeowner or business owner charged with murder for shooting an intruder (in Baltimore right now two brothers are being charged with 1st degree murder for shooting someone who broke into their business and who was holding a weapon- according to the prosecutors the brothers/business owners had no business being there as it was after hours and they had been burglarized several times in the recent past so they were only there for vigilantism and that they should have left when they heard the guy break in instead of investigating :banghead: ), another state adding new restrictions on law abiding citizens who want to own guns, etc.- it is really nice to get some good news. Teaching kids to shoot competitively will make it harder to convince them later that there are no constructive uses for guns. You produce one more person with a potential stake in the 2nd Amendment and take away one more potential anti.
  8. TheLastBoyScout

    TheLastBoyScout Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    SE PA/ El Cid (SC)
    I would email this to my HS athletics director, but he transferred (and graduated from) a flaming liberal quaker school, so I don't think he'd react too nicely. Should I do it anyway? anonymous sn maybe? I REALLY WANT another excuse to shoot!
  9. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 19, 2002
    Teaching kids to shoot does more than teach them respect for a firearm and safe firearms handling. It also teaches them self-discipline. They know it's not Game-Boy they're playing with and the results are final. There's no "reset" button that brings their classmate back to life.
  10. falconer

    falconer Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Northeast Ohio
    Wolf Creek is an AWESOME range. It was quite an experience getting to shoot there last year in the Collegiate Pistol National Championship. I remember seeing some High School teams come into practice after we were done with the range for the day.

    It is truely a same that the place is closed. There is still some hope to keep it open, but only if the public, the NRA, USA Shooting, et al. pester the heck out of the Fulton County government.

    This year's collegiate championship is going to have to be at Ft. Benning instead because of the closing. Everyone loses by its closing. :mad:

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