Amber Rasmussen shoots a lot, something like 200 rounds a week during the season and about 5,000 rounds annually. She competes on the Union Grove Broncos Shooting Club team, out of Union Grove, Wisconsin, where her father, Wayne, is an assistant coach.
She started out shooting trap in 8th grade, picked up sporting clays and skeet her sophomore year and added handicap and doubles trap her junior year. In her freshman year she also found time to shoot pistol.
This past spring Amber graduated and is headed to Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she plans to study physical therapy. This made her final round of trap at the National Team Championships a bit tough.
“I started crying before my last round and by the time I was done I was a mess,” said the 18 year old describing her last day shooting in the Scholastic Clay Target Program with her high school team.
While her Union Grove career came to an end, for Amber it most certainly did not go gentle into that good night as Dylan Thomas might note. No, Amber went out with a bang – over 1,000 of them the be specific.
Amber, along with her fellow Union Grove teammate Michael Kopecki, are members of a small group here at the nationals that compete in every championship event. She took on sporting clays, skeet, trap, doubles trap and handicap trap shooting 200 targets in each. In doubles trap she finished 3rd Ladies Varsity in individual competition helping her team take 4th place.
She also shot 100 rounds in the Scholastic Pistol Program event. And, she even faced off in Friday night’s Last Competitor Standing shoot were, facing off against several hundred shooters, she managed to win a $1,000 scholarship courtesy of the NRA.
At the end of a long, hot week of competition, Amber was thankful her Union Grove team shot as much as it did through the year. But as for the reason for shooting so many events Amber pulls no punches, declaring emphatically, “Because I can.”
Stu Wright is a man on a mission, and that mission is his 32 athletes here competing in the 2015 National Team Championships. Nothing is going to keep him from watching them take a run at the title…not even Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Stu is the head coach of the Pinckneyville Community High School shooting program. The owner of Wright’s, a gun shop he opened in the mid 70’s which caters to the clay target shooter, started his high school coaching career back in 2002 when he was asked to coach the school’s FFA squad.
At the time there were just five shooters, enough for a competition squad. Today his program has 32 solid shooters competing in trap, skeet and sporting clays. Here at Nationals he has six seniors who have been with him from between four and seven years, and missing their final run at a national title isn’t something that he’s going to miss.
On Thursday, the first day he could get out of bed after chemo, Stu made it to the World Shooting & Recreational Complex to watch his kids compete in sporting clays. He showed up not knowing where they stood or if they even had a chance at a title. When he found out how they were shooting, well, as Stu put it, “there’s no getting me out of here.”
Led by senior Andy Opp, who was the only high school team shooter to post a perfect 100 on Wednesday and followed that up with 95 on Thursday to claim the individual High Overall title, PCHS Shooting Sports finished as the first place high school team, with 562, and second place among all teams. That made Thursday a very good day in Stu’s book.
Five months ago, back on February 6, Stu Wright learned he had cancer. On February 10 Andy and the rest of his team, the coaches and parents got the news, too.
“It was rough getting the news but then everybody stepped up,” said Opp in describing how the close knit group took the news.
Up until last year Stu Wright was the coach of the team, carrying most all of the responsibility with help from assistant coach Donny Nehring who coached the sporting clays shooters and traveled with the team to major events.
But last year there were 22 team shooters and this year there are 32, a big jump for a community of just 2,500. Stu realized he needed help and built a team of assistant coaches for this season.
“Now I have four fine guys that picked up the torch,” says Wright. And picking up the torch is exactly what was needed since February. Chemo takes a lot out of a person, even one with the drive and enthusiasm that Stu Wright seems to have an endless supply of. On those days, the bad days as Wright refers to them, he refuses to be around the kids because he doesn’t want his cancer to be their burden.
Wright’s motto is ‘Fun With A Gun’ and that’s why he won’t get in the way of his kids’ fun with his cancer. Opp describes his coach as “one of a kind” and says, “Nobody’s going to be like Stu. He’s strict but fun and we always seem to be laughing.”
Going into today’s American Trap finals, Stu’s kids, the boys from that small, tight community of Pinckneyville, Illinois, are ahead by 34 targets after breaking a 482 in their quest for the high school team title, making Coach Wright a very happy man.
With no hope of hiding his pride in their first day’s performance Stu gushes, “That’s totally over our head.” And then he says of his cancer and recent round of chemo, “I have no side effects. I’m on top of the world and it doesn’t get any better than this.”
And that’s why there’s no stopping Stu Wright.
Carter Kramer only started shooting trap this past October. But the 12 year old from Quincy, Illinois, was already an active hunter. And while he hunted duck, dove and rabbit whenever the opportunity arose, he has fallen hard for those small orange clay disks.
“I love it because it’s a challenge,” said Carter about his foray into trap. And it’s a challenge the young shooter continues to rise to.
Though very new to trap he has already logged his first 25 straight, and yesterday, armed with a Remington 870 Wingmaster, Carter added another 87 targets to his career total when he and the rest of his Quivering Clays team shot their first 100 of the SCTP American Trap Team Championship.
Though his first 50 still alludes him, Carter is determined to reach that next trap milestone and move on to his first 100 straight this year.
Young athletes like Carter don’t get into trapshooting, and all the way to Sparta, Illinois, and the National Team Championships, without some family support. And for the Kramer family, it’s not just some support but a lot.
Carter’s father Dan started shooting clay targets at the age of 9 using an old spring loaded hand trap and is happy to see his oldest son getting into the sport. Younger brother Austin, 10, is ready to join Carter on the shooting line next year while 5 year old brother Kayden is still a couple years away from joining the Kramer squad.
The Kramers road tripped south to Sparta in force. Joining dad and the boys are mom, granddad and, of course, grandma Donna Lohmeyer who helps herd the boys when Carter isn’t shooting and the sights and sounds of a bustling national championship venue seem to pull them in every direction all at once.
Clearly trapshooting is, indeed, a family event.
A 2013 research report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation entitled Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation in the U.S. 2008-2012 found that not only were new shooters likely to be younger with 66% falling in the 18-to-34-year-old age group, but they were also likely to be female. NSSF’s findings showed that 37% of new target shooters were women.
Looking around the grounds of the World Shooting & Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois, it’s clear that young women are a fast growing segment of both the Scholastic Clay Target Program and the Scholastic Pistol Program.
At this year’s National Team Championships those young ladies with shotguns slung over their shoulders, and those with a pistol tucked away in their range bag, make up 18.4% of the total 2,800-plus athletes in attendance. Among the 2,466 shotgunners they are 17.6% while on the pistol ranges they account for nearly a quarter (24.3%) of the 345 competitors.
If the broad smiles exhibited during Wednesday night’s Opening Ceremony are any indication, the number of young female athletes participating in the shooting programs of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation is likely to grow.
One of the highlights of Nationals week for SCTP athletes is the opportunity to compete in a massive Last Competitor Standing event that give them the opportunity to win guns, gear, and even a scholarship. The event has two components on each of two nights: a competition for anyone who wishes to compete, with men’s and ladies winners taking home guns and other prizes, followed by a competition just for 2015 graduating seniors who competed for $1,000 scholarships presented by the NRA.
On Wednesday night, Caitlin Cravens of the Hudson Raiders (Wisconsin) and Lane Reinikainen of the Rice Lake Warbirds (Wisconsin) outlasted more than 500 other competitors to each win a CZ-USA 612 Trap gun.
Among the graduates who competed for $1,000 scholarships, Tori Mann of Maryland and Kolton Manning of Iowa won the Ladies’ and Men’s scholarships, respectively.
During Friday night’s competition, Andy Opp of Pinckneyville High School (IL) finished as the top men’s competitor, while Sabrina Peterson of St. Charles Sportsman’s Club (IL) was the last woman standing. Both won CZ-USA 612 Trap guns.
Winning $1,000 NRA scholarships on Friday night were Amber Rasmussen and Bobby Tate, both of Wisconsin.
Other shooters in the top 10 each night won Nobel Sport ammunition, Randolph Range shooting glasses, and Shamrock Leathers ammo holders.
Participation at the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2015 National Team Championships is broad reaching with 28 states represented. Nearly three quarters (74.1%) of the 2,800+ shooters come from just five states. Here’s how athletes from the SSSF’s Big 5 break out.
The Volunteer State accounts for 25.3% of all athletes with 601 competing in SCTP (24.4%) and 109 (31.6%) in SPP.
The home of the World Shooting & Recreational Complex, the Land of Lincoln sent 484 (19.6%) of shotgunners and 40 (11.6%) of the pistol competitors.
The Badger State athletes came to shoot with 371 (15.0%) in SCTP and 47 (13.6%) in SPP.
The Hawkeye State rolled in with 200 (8.2%) of the SCTP athletes and 29 (8.4%) of those in SPP.
The Show-Me State showed up with 202 (8.2%) SCTP competitors, and despite not having any shooters in the SPP Nationals they still hold down fifth overall on this list.
If you’re going to Sparta, Illinois for your first SCTP-SPP National Team Championships, your head may be spinning with questions. While we can’t offer you a secret for taking home a medal, we can offer you some tips to enhance your enjoyment of Nationals.
If you’re planning to bring your own golf car or utility vehicle to the National Team Championships at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex, you must meet some requirements and follow rules for safety and the consideration of other attendees at Nationals.
Every person using their personal clays vehicle must get a permit for the vehicle at the registration desk. At that time, you must provide your driver’s license — a learner’s permit is not sufficient — and proof of insurance.
Only persons 18 years of age or older can register a clays vehicle, and you must be a licensed driver 16 years of age or older to operate it.
You can learn about everything that’s happening at the 2015 National Team Championships with the event program, and it’s ready for your perusal. Use it to plan your schedule, learn about side events, or just stoke your excitement for the biggest event of the year!
The program also includes information on the SCTP International-Style National Championships in Colorado Springs.
The SCTP and SPP National Team Championships will be July 13-18 at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois. Based on opening-week registrations that were almost double 2014 numbers, staff are expecting to have a record-breaking event.
If your team hasn’t yet registered, do it today!