Fun takes priority at Las Vegas youth shooting competition

Hundreds of kids made some new friends but also got in some competitive shooting at the Clark County Shooting Complex last week.

"I've made a ton of new friends," said 15-year-old Emily Inserra, of the Twin Falls (Idaho) Hot Shots. "I practically know all the teams here."

The U.S. Open Youth Clay Shooting Championship, which includes trap, skeet and sporting clay shooting, involved 600 boys and girls in 3rd through 12th grade July 11-15. The competition has been held for six years and keeps growing.

While many of the kids in the competition are from surrounding states, kids travel from as far as Alaska, Pennsylvania and Texas. Kids come from all sorts of backgrounds and skill levels.

Safety is emphasized from the beginning, said Dave Tanner, president of the Youth Shooting Sports Federation, which runs the competition.

"We start them off the very first thing is they take a safety training program. Each team is responsible for that. It's something they go through diligently to make sure the kids are safe," he said. "...We make sure that they are safe before they advance."

The coaches also receive training and go through background checks.

Allan Garza is the head coach of Team Coon Creek, out of Rio Oso, California, north of Sacramento.

"You know I think what's really fun about this competition is the camaraderie between the athletes, no matter what team they're from or who they shoot for," he said. "They all get along, they all support each other, they help each other out when they notice one of the athletes is struggling."

While many kids are there to compete, they try not to lose sight of the fun.

"Practices are fun and then when you get to the competition, you have fun downtime with your team but then you have to go out on the line and focus and it becomes more competitive," said 18-year-old Stephen Caputo, a member of the De La Salle High School Trap Club out of Concord, California. "But it's still fun. Fun takes priority in the sport."

Caputo hadn't done much shooting before joining the trap club but then there are others, like Breyer Meeks of the Twin Falls Hot Shots, who has been shooting for much of his life.

"I sorta started it to kinda get me a little bit better at hunting, but then I started to shoot a little bit more," the 15-year-old said. "And it got really exciting and fun and decided to try more with it."

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