ATA Youth Recognition Award winners for 2009
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The ATA announced the three recipients of the ATA Youth Recognition Awards at the 2009 Grand American. The winners were: Jacob Gagno of Pottsville, Pa.; Jessica Whalen of Baraboo, Wis.; and Collin Wietfeldt of Hemlock, Mich.

The purpose of the award was for the ATA to recognize youth under age 18 who take an active part in their communities and the shooting sports through individual participation, educational pursuits and accomplishments. The applicants had to meet core and elective requirements in their applications. The award was made possible by a generous donation by Frank Brownell.

Collin Wietfeldt

First-place winner

Collin started trapshooting in 2004 and by the end of 2005 he had 37 titles and trophies to his name.  He started strong in 2006, winning sub-junior titles in singles, doubles and the all-around at the Southern Grand.  His 2006 efforts led to being named to the 2007 ATA All-American Sub-Junior Team.  He has been two-time team captain on the Michigan All-State Trapshooting Team in the years he’s been on this team (2005-2008), and in 2008 was named to the US National Junior Olympic Shotgun Team.  In addition to making ATA All-American Junior Team in 2009, Collin also earned a spot on the US Olympic Development Team.  The scheduling conflict that kept him away from the Grand American this year was that he was representing the United States in Slovenia at the 2009 World Championships.  His team won silver and he finished 5th overall— super results but especially for a first appearance on the US Shotgun Team!

His shooting career began with a plastic pellet BB gun and at age 12 was hunting with his dad.  Collin is a well-rounded shooter having competed in the Michigan Youth Hunter Education Challenge for several years, earning both individual and team titles.  YHEC includes competition in shotgun, hunter safety trail, hunter education exam, rifle, muzzle loading, orienteering, archery and wildlife identification.  Before deciding to concentrate on trapshooting, Collin competed in weightlifting and football.  A visit with his mom to the Saginaw Field and Stream Conservation Club in 2004 changed all that as his potential was recognized immediately by Greg King, a member of the trap committee at the Saginaw club.  Collin practices at the club two or three nights a week, many times with Greg looking over his shoulder.

At a young age, Collin realized he should help support his shooting avocation.  He has worked since he was 13 years old to help his family with his shooting expenses by working at his club as a puller/scorer and by working in a greenhouse.  He is a member, volunteer and coach at his home club as well as a participant and volunteer in local charity shoots such as the MICOPS Charity Shoot (shooting on the Saginaw Police Shooting Team to raise money for families of Michigan police officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty) and the Thrivent Charity Shoot for the Johnny Burke Children’s Foundation.  In his community, he is part of the Blood Donor for Life program, which requires not taking drugs, being in good health, and donating blood six times before graduation. Collin is also First Aid and CPR certified.

Collin has also recognized he needs to help support his education.  An honor roll student at Hemlock High School, Collin has earned numerous scholarships for college, including the NRA Outstanding Achievement Youth Award as well as an academic shooting scholarship at Lindenwood University in Missouri, where he matriculated in August of this year.  He is pursuing a chemistry major with a pre-dental study.  [Collin received a call the first week of September  from the U.S. National Olympic Shotgun coach, Mark Weeks of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) inviting him to become a Resident Athlete at the Olympic Training Center  (OTC) in Colorado Springs, CO.  Collin decided to leave Lindenwood University and accept this invitation to live and train at the OTC.—Ed note

The son of Craig and Michele Wietfeldt, Collin is grateful to his parents for their support of his shooting career.  Collin writes in his essay, “Shooting sports have taught me that you can do anything you want to do, as long as you put your mind to it.  I also have learned that good things don’t come easily, if you want something you have to earn it.  I have made so many new friends through the years shooting ATA all over the United States.  I feel that my parents introduced me to a sport that I can take part in through my whole life.”

Jessica Whalen

Second-place winner

Jessica is entering her junior year at Baraboo High School in Wisconsin where she is a straight-A student.  The daughter of Vic and Kathy Whalen, her career goal is to become a teacher, and she knows that dedication to good grades will get her there and allow her to continue to shoot trap.  She’s already well on her way in her role as a teacher as she is a Wisconsin DNR Junior Hunter Safety Instructor, teaching two classes a year since 2005 at Delton Sportsmen’s Club.  Since 2008 she has been Youth Director for the Sauk County’s Youth Shooting Program and volunteered earlier this year at the Sauk County Health Fair working a booth to promote gun safety in the home.  Her goal is to find a college that is great for training teachers but that also has a collegiate AIM program.  “This way I don’t have to give up shooting while going to school,” she said.

Following her dad Vic around at trapshoots before she became a participant herself gave her a knowledge base for excelling rapidly—watching all those good shooters all those years.  Jessica has five years of competitive trapshooting under her belt and she’s only 16 years old.  Her first 100 straight came in 2007 at the Wisconsin State Shoot, earning her the Sub-Junior Singles Championship and All-Around Sub-Junior runner-up.  She and her dad were Parent/Child Champions.  She capped her 2008 target year being named to the Wisconsin All-State Sub-Junior Team. 

Jessica loves to write, especially about the outdoors.  One of her writings submitted in her application packet is titled “My Father.”  It describes the pride the two of them feel when Jessica shoots her first 100 straight and beats her dad for the first time!  She writes about the youth shooting program in her club’s newsletter, where we learn the youth shooters work hard to earn money for their teams and also to give back to the club.  Examples of their efforts are helping to set up and take down the club’s gun show, selling raffle calendars, and participating in the club’s clean-up day (“We raked all the gravel off the lawn, cleaned out all trap houses, and picked up all empty hulls blown from the snow blower.”).  The word “volunteer” appears numerous times in her application and she volunteers for three organizations: Delton Sportsmen’s Club, Sauk County Youth Shooting Program and Sauk Prairie Trap and Skeet Club.  She volunteers at fundraisers such as Delton’s Hunter’s Night Out and Sauk County’s Whitetails Unlimited banquet, as well as serving at numerous registered shoots as score keeper. 

Jessica is known in her club as a leader and a mentor to new shooters coming into the program.  Her coach, AIM State Director Michael Bradley, writes, “Jessica is at ease coaching other team members on proper stance, gun mount, hold points, trap etiquette and gun safety.  She is a team leader, role model for the new shooters, and supports all the team through her positive reinforcement and great work ethic.  She sets a great example for the others by setting high goals for herself and working hard to achieve them.”

In her own words, “The greatest thing I have learned from the shooting sports is the importance of friendship.  To me the trapshooting camaraderie is just as important as the score I get at the end of the day.  I have learned these people are what makes trapshooting fun and makes every 99 day a perfect 100.”  She adds, “If I could tell my father one thing it would be ‘Thank You’ for everything.”

 

Jacob Gogno

Third-place winner

Jacob hales from Pottsville, PA, and is the son of Debra and John Gogno.  A 2009 graduate of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary High School, his guidance counselor Jill Salmon sets the tone for this bio, “His contributions have been varied and immeasurable.”  Jacob has expressed a great sense of “self.”  Jacob’s high school career included, besides trapshooting, being a four-year Honor Student (the last time he missed a day of school was one day in third grade) and competing on his school’s basketball, football and track teams.  He was a member of the Outdoor Club and the Student Ambassador Program.  In the Student Ambassador Program, Jacob served as a positive role model and “big brother” figure for elementary-age students who attend the local Catholic Elementary Schools.  He also served as a mentor in the Special Olympics, making the day special for an athlete named Tyler.  Jacob’s community service, over 400 hours worth, also extends into the trapshooting world.  Last year, he helped design and organize a “Youth Trap Shoot” at Beckville Rod & Gun Club which was attended by over 50 children.  The second annual “Youth Trap Shoot” was held this year with approximately 60 children attending, many new to the sport.  Jacob conducted the pre-shooting safety program.   He has also served as a camp counselor at the Norm Thornburg Youth Conservation Camp instructing shotgun. Jacob said that Trapshooting has given him the ability to say “this is me.” 

Beckville Rod & Gun Club was the site of Jacob’s introduction to organized shooting after a cousin invited him to try trapshooting at a family reunion.  Jacob is grateful to the shooters who have taken him under their wings over the years, offering of their time, expertise and equipment to bring him along in the sport.  “I have built many wonderful friendships and experienced awesome camaraderie with my shooting peers, many three to four times my age or better,” Jacob wrote.  He gives back to the club by volunteering as a trap boy or at work parties.

Last October, Jacob was chosen by the Olympic Training Committee to participate in a training and development camp for International trap at the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO, earning recognition as one of the top three shooters at the camp’s shoot off.  Last spring Jacob competed in the ConAm 200 held at Ontelaunee Rod & Gun Club, New Tripoli, PA, and placed second Junior.  A few weeks later, at Quantico Shooting Club’s VA State Championship, he won the Junior title.  In June, he was selected to participate in the NRA/Laura Revitz Memorial Advanced Junior Shotgun Camp at the Cardinal Center in Ohio.  He returned to Colorado this summer for his first Nationals and Junior Olympic Matches.  He shot well in both, placing 10th overall in the latter.  Jacob then headed to New York to shoot in the Empire State Invitational, bringing home silver in Junior Men’s Open Division.  He will travel to Kerrville, TX, soon to compete in the USAS Shotgun Fall Selection Match.  Jacob has elected to attend college locally at Penn State Schuykill so he can focus on improving his shooting skills in both ATA and International trap!

Jacob wrote in the essay portion of his application for this award, “Many individuals find their comfort zone on the field playing football, baseball or soccer, but for me being on the shooting range is where I want to be.  I enjoy the challenge knowing that the results depend only on my ability to deal with the pressure and the elements.  Trapshooting will always be an active part in my life because it makes me a responsible well-balanced individual.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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