Young trapshooter on target in new sport



July 31, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Tapanga Turner is not a newcomer to recreational shooting. At the tender age of 9, she shot her first deer.
For five years, Turner has been an avid hunter. Then came a new opportunity for a different shooting sport.
“Richard Diehl has the free trapshoot for kids each year. My dad is good friends with Richard. They used to compete against each other trapshooting,” said Turner.
“They convinced me to come to the shoot. I knew during the shoot that trapshooting was the sport for me. I love it.”
And trapshooting is loving the 14-year-old soon-to-be freshman at Marmaton Valley High School in Moran. Since March, Turner has made strides in her new sport, winning division shoots.
On Tuesday, Turner takes off for the 2010 Grand American World Trapshooting Championships. The largest trapshoot competition in the nation is at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Ill.
“I’m nervous but so excited about going to Grand my first year competing,” Turner said. “There are shooters from all over the world that come to this event.”
Turner’s father, Sean Turner, said the Sparta complex has 120 trap fields and spans 31⁄2 miles. The competition is sanctioned by the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA).
Sean Turner used to compete in trapshooting until a shoulder injury sidelined him. He said he just can’t shoot like he used to but is obviously proud that his daughter has taken to the sport.
“Tapanga has done so well in her first year of competition. We’re so glad that Richard organized and puts on the free kids shoot each year,” Sean Turner said.
“Betty and Ron Wrestler at the Lone Tree Gun Club have been great. People comment about what a great shooting stance Tapanga has. I was really proud when she was shooting in a registered shoot against two older ladies. Once the competition was over, they immediately patted Tapanga on the back for a job well done.”
Once she made up her mind trapshooting was for her, the Turners went about finding shotguns that fit her. After a long process, helped by Iola’s West Side Bait Shop, Tapanga shoots her singles — shooting from 16 yards away from the trap with one shot fired at each target — with a Browning BT-99 Micro 12 gauge shotgun.
“Leonard and Linda (Barnett) of West Side Bait Shop helped us find a gun for her,” Sean said.
Tapanga said it was tough as she had to figure out the gun that worked well with her. She said it had the right swing speed, didn’t have too much kick when fired and other factors came into play.
“You want your gun shooting where you are looking. It’s important to have a gun that fits your strength and body,” she said.
Tapanga will compete in the AIM Grand National, Aug. 7-8, in Sparta. AIM (Academics. Integrity. Marksmanship.) is a youth program of the ATA encouraging youngsters to become involved with the lifetime sport of trapshooting.
She will shoot singles, handicap, which is where shooters stand between 17 to 27 yards from the trap, and doubles, which is when two clay targets are re-leased at one time.
Tapanga shoots on a team out of Powder Creek Gun Club in Lenexa. Recently at a register shoot in Lenexa, she broke 80 of 100 targets in doubles. In doubles, Tapanga shoots a Browning Ultra Over and Under, meaning the two gun barrels are stacked on top of each other.
“I go shoot every Wednesday and Sunday. I really enjoy shooting wobbles, which means the trap machine is moving and you don’t know where the target is coming out at. It’s fun,” Tapanga said.
“Trapshooting is a fun sport you can do whatever age you are. I’m very competitive and its a sport your really shooting against yourself to get better.”
Tapanga, who is in the sub-junior division (under 15 years old), said she broke four out of 25 targets her first time but from there her percentage has steadily improved.
“Until I hit a plateau. I have my good days and bad days shooting like everyone else.
“Trapshooting is mentally and physically challenging,” she said.
Of course, she wants to continue to win every time she competes but her ultimate goal is to earn a scholarship to shoot at the collegiate level. She has shot in the sub-junior, junior (under age 18) and ladies’ events, winning at each level along the way.
“I’d really like to see trapshooting as a high school sport at Moran, Iola, Humboldt, all the area high schools. I just encourage more young people to come out and try it,” Tapanga said.
Tapanga wants to be like her idle, Betty Wrestler, who is an All-American trapshooter and a member of the Kansas Trap Shooting Association Hall of Fame.
Wrestler was the women’s Grand American Champion in 1991.
“She’s who inspires me and everybody who shoots out here at Lone Tree (Gun Club) have been helping me improve,” Tapanga said.
As in any sport, costs mount up and the Turners are looking into finding a sponsor or two for Tapanga to defray costs.
“This sport is awesome. It teaches self-respect and respect for others. You can go as far in it as you want to work for,” Tapanga said. “I already knew gun safety from hunting but there are different types of safety rules involved with this sport.”
She is reminded every once in awhile by a “boy that I’m a girl in a man’s sport but that’s not true. I’ve beaten boys and girls and women. Look what Betty did.”
Tapanga, the daughter of Sean and Lacinda Turner of LaHarpe, has her sights set with a true aim on becoming one of the best trapshooters.
She knows she has work to do.
“It’s just my first year. I’m learning but having a blast.”

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