Jack Elwell and Dawson Peer, freshmen at Cherokee and River Ridge, respectively, teamed with Mitchell McCraney, a home-schooled student from Suwanee, to win the intermediate advanced division at last month’s SCTP National Championship in Sparta, Ill.
The team, coached by Peer’s father, Craig, practices at Etowah Valley Sporting Clays in Dawsonville. The intermediate advanced division is for students in grades 6-8 who have competed in the event in the past.
“Since this team was all eighth-graders, next year, they will be considered JV,” said Craig Peer, who described sporting clays as “golf with a shotgun.”
“You travel around to 14 different stations and shoot between six and eight shots at each station,” he added. “You have 14 different presentations on the course. They are all moving targets. The targets can come from any different direction that you can create. In trap and skeet, the field in Georgia is the same as the field (anywhere), even to the point that it can’t vary from more than 5 degrees from true north. With sporting clays, you couldn’t duplicate a course if you even tried.”
The three shooters qualified for the national championship after winning the state title. In the national competition, they went up against more than 500 other teams in their division.
At the two-day national event, each individual took 100 shots per day. A perfect team score was 600, and the team of Elwell, McCraney and Dawson Peer scored 517.
“That score would have placed them well above all the teams in the division above them,” Craig Peer said. “They not only beat the teams in their division, they would have beat the whole next division up.”
Dawson Peer, who has been shooting competitively for four years, won the individual title by making 189 of his 200 shots.
Craig Peer, who has been coaching for four years, took another group to nationals last summer, but this is the first time he has had a team win.
“They compete against kids from all over, California to Alaska,” Peer said. “You name it.”
The SCTP only holds two events a year — a state event and then the national championship — but Elwell, McCraney and Dawson Peer also compete in National Sporting Clay Association events.
How involved an individual is in the sport is up to them.
“Unless you are shooting for a college team, it’s a very individual sport,” Craig Peer said. “For instance, this year alone, my son and I have been to South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Las Vegas, and San Antonio for shooting. We travel all over the U.S. basically.
“As far as winning and competing at nationals like these boys, they are practicing two to three times a week as well.”
Elwell’s father, Greg, said his son has been shooting guns all his life, but he just started competing three years ago. So far, it has been a good experience.
Much like another sports, college scholarships are available to top athletes. Peer knows of participants as young as 12 years old, who have been offered scholarships.
“There are definitely opportunities for scholarships,” he said. “There are sponsorships as well. There is a lot they can do within the sport.”