Honestly, this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette feature on the area's top prep rifle teams is so fascinating that I don't even know where to begin. There's no other choice but to provide a list of the five things you can learn (or think you learned) from the feature.
5. First, the rules for what amounts to a firing squad of high schoolers. Of course, rule No. 1 is don't mess with any of the 40-50 kids per school that have been coming out for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League's 14 rifle teams since 1942.
For those of you counting at home, that's an estimated 50,000 kids over 70-plus years playing with rifles. Here are the rest of the rules, courtesy of the Post-Gazette.
They have 15 minutes to shoot 10 targets, with the center of the target counting as 10 points and each outer ring decreasing in points. If a competitor hits the center ring (which is the size of a silver dollar) without nicking the ring next to it, then he/she gets a bonus. A perfect score would be 100-10x, meaning the competitor got a 10 on each of the 10 targets (100) and got the bonus (10x) on each shot. For team competitions, each team has 10 shooters, with only the top eight scores counting.
4. Shooting rifles is a metaphor for life.
“I didn’t use to be that confident,” Pittsburg (Pa.) Woodland Hills High star Miranda Johnson told the Post-Gazette. “But in rifling, you have to be confident, and you have to have focus, concentration and positivity. And those are all traits you have to have to be successful in anything in life. So rifling has definitely helped me grow as a person.”
Oh, and the best shooters are smart shooters.
“My best shooters are usually my smartest kids,” Trinity coach John Husk told the paper. “To be successful, you have to pay attention, remember what you’re told and do it over and over again.” If this sounds like a Mark Wahlberg film, keep in mind it's a prep sport.
Naturally, we search engined Husk's Trinity rifle team, winner of 11 of the past 24 WPIAL championships, and discovered this 1980s "A-Team"-esque YouTube video -- from 2002.
3. When it comes to shooting rifles, girls are better than boys (and since shooting rifles is a metaphor for life, then I guess we all know what that means, guys).
“Honestly, girls are better shooters,” Landisville (Pa.) Hempfield High senior Alex Thomas told the Post-Gazette. “Without them, we wouldn’t be as good as we are.”
Added Husk: "(Girls) pay attention and listen to instructions better. I know what it takes to shoot well and my best shooters are the ones who remember what I tell them.”
Excuse me while we pause for the applause coming from wives across America.
Indeed, the six most accurate rifle shooters at last year's WPIAL Individual Championships were all female. Same goes for the top 10 in 2012. However, of the 13 most recent individual champions listed in the WPIAL archives, eight are male. So there.
2. Now, for the question everyone must be asking: In the wake of so many deadly school shootings that have stirred a growing national debate over gun control, is it really the best idea to be training kids how to become better shooters?
“Once, seven or eight years ago after one of the school shootings (in the United States), the school administration asked to see how we run things,” Husk told the Post-Gazette. “But I showed them that any time, since they are only one-shot rifles, I know who had a bullet in their guns. And when we leave the range, all the guns are locked in a vault that only I can open. The guns aren’t coming into the halls. It’s really safe.
“That’s the only time I’ve ever been asked about it.”
So, not everybody is asking the question, then?
1. Per the Post-Gazette, the WPIAL has never experienced a shooting accident in 73 years of rifle competition. As a result, Woodland Hills coach Matt Rodrigues told the paper he believes rifle shooting is the safest sport. I guess when you put it that way …
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