Hundreds of secondary school shooters are preparing to compete in national clay target shooting champs – that have put some on a path to world championship success.
The sport has soared in popularity over recent years, rising from 80 young participants in 1990 to the present day – 600 shooters 21 or under are now registered with the New Clay Target Association.
As many as 350 students will compete in the North Island part of the Fish & Game NZ Secondary Schools Clay Target Championships 2011 over three days from this Saturday (October 8) at the Waikato Clay Target Club in Holland Road, Eureka.
North Island Co-Ordinator Gavin Paton says that over recent years the Secondary School national champs have grown to such an extent, “there are more young people competing than in our open annual National Competition.”
From their modest start, the Second School Championships soon became so large that they required their own standalone event, which alternates yearly between the Waikato and Canterbury clay target clubs, Gavin says.
He says that 15 years ago a few local monthly secondary school events sponsored by Fish & Game led on to the Auckland-Waikato Fish & Game office introducing the North Island Championship.
“This was soon growing at an exceptional rate, and was followed by Fish & Game New Zealand generously offering to sponsor both the North and South Island and national tournaments as we know them today.”
It is a life changing sport for many young people, Gavin says, “with both parents and teachers surprised at the changes in attitude and confidence they’ve seen.”
The young clay target shooters have gone on to achieve some exceptional results on both the national and world stage, Gavin says, winning numerous provincial North and South Island and national titles.
“One example is Colin Waghorn, who rose from the ranks of school shooters to become Down The Line (DTL) World Champion. A junior shooter Jack Norwood from Rotorua has already qualified for nomination to the 2012 Olympic Team.
“I believe as the years go by, we can now expect even greater results from these younger athletes as they mature into top athletes. I’ve spent a lot of time travelling with NZ’s international teams over the past 15 years and found our unique junior development program is the envy of many countries.”
Gavin Paton says the champs would not be the thriving youth sport they are today without the on-going support of Fish &Game NZ, Clay Target Clubs and all the parents, teachers, coaches and managers who have volunteered their time . “We pay tribute to those people,” Gavin says.
Students compete in single sex and mixed team events as well as individually across three disciplines: Skeet, Down the Line (DTL - which has a Single Rise, Points Score and Single Barrel event), and High Gun, won by the shooter with the highest score over the day.
The Fish & Game NZ Secondary School Clay Target Shooting Competition began as the Winchester Inter-school Postal Shoot nearly 20 years ago. Around 380 school students from schools across the country now compete each year.
The competition is tightly structured with a North and South Island event held annually, with the Nationals alternating between them.