From a “rag-tag team” to national champions.
That was the amazing seven-year odyssey of a young trap-shooting team from Trousdale County.
The youngsters recently competed in the Grand American World Championships in Sparta, Ill., and brought home a national title in their division, among other honors.
“The kids did a great job and I’m really proud of them,” said coach Van Thompson who founded the team seven years ago.
“We started out as a rag-tag team comprised of home-schooled kids,” Thompson said. “The goal was not just to teach them how to shoot, but to also provide mentoring and other guidance.”
He added: “From the start, our goal has been to have fun and learn to shoot. Winning is secondary. ‘Winning’ is anytime you break a clay .’’
Competing against approximately 500 school-age youngsters from around the country, the Trousdale County shooters won not only their Junior A Division but also the High Overall championship. In the latter they competed against several college-level shooters among a total field of 1,600.
Members of the winning Junior A squad were: Dale Anthony, Evan Goke, Nick Pappas, Tanner Puckett and Josiah Crouch.
Jacob Hume, Josiah Goke, Kelsey Goke and Kyle Goke shot in individual classes.
Team members who shot in Tennessee tournaments but did not make the Illinois trip were: Anna Lilly, Jay Lilly and Cotton Gross.
Dale Anthony was third in the Junior Class A Championship Flight, Josiah Crouch third in the Sub-Junior Championship Flight, and Josiah Goke runner-up in the Pre-Sub B competition.
Kyle Goke was 10thin the Handicap Champion Junior Gold (College Division.)
“Every shooter that went to Illinois shot a new personal high score,” Thompson said. “Our squad (high school age) was not only first in their classification, but our squad of five shooters were Grand Champions. This was the largest gathering of shooters in North American, with a total of over 1,600 in all divisions and our young shooters came home as the very best in the nation.”
Thompson got the idea to form a trap-shooting team after taking some area youngsters on a 2011 dove hunt sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“They enjoyed it, and I decided to start a team to instruct them how to shoot,” said Thompson, who set about building a trap-shooting course on his Hartsville farm. It consists of two bunker houses and trap-throwing machines.
In addition to shooting at Thompson’s course, the team shoots at Lebanon’s Cedar City Gun Club and at the Macon County Gun Club.
“We’ve had a lot of great support from both clubs,” Thompson said.
The team is open to boys and girls of junior high and high school age. Anyone interested in coming out for the team can contact Thompson at 615-300-6066. If a youngster doesn’t own a gun, one will be provided.
“I’m proud of these kids,” Thompson said. “They give me hope for this country when it seems everything is spinning out of control. It was a season well done.”
Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected]