CC girls trap shooting team makes name for themselves
For recent Central Cambria High School graduate Jenna Smith, successfully handling a rifle or shotgun has become second nature.
Smith has been a deer hunter for many years, and her father, Mike, is the coach of the Central Cambria girls trap shooting team, which recently completed its third season.
Lauren Smith — Jenna’s younger sister and Mike’s younger daughter — is also a member of the team, which competed in the 2021 Pennsylvania High School Clay Target League State Championships on Saturday, June 26, at the Pennsylvania State Shotgunning Association facility in the Northumberland County town of Elysburg.
Jenna Smith won the girls varsity division state championship that day, taking first place among a field of over 60 girls competitors by shooting and breaking a total of 96 clay pigeons out of 100 chances.
“I’m really excited about it,” Jenna Smith said of her state championship. “It was super unexpected for me. I hadn’t really shot well this year, so I didn’t really know what was going to happen at states. I was super happy to come out on top.”
Maintaining her composure throughout the event was a big factor for Jenna Smith.
“I stayed calm and focused the whole time,” said Jenna, who will be attending the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown this fall and pursuing a biology degree with the goal of eventually becoming an athletic trainer. “I wasn’t thinking about how I had shot previously this year, or about how my competition at states was shooting. I was just trying to do the best that I could, focusing on one bird at a time.”
Greater Latrobe’s Summer Pavlik finished second with a score of 95, while rising Central Cambria senior Abby Walwro took third place with a score of 94.
Jenna Smith, Pavlik and Walwro all earned state medals for finishing among the top three shooters.
Lauren Smith, an incoming senior at Central Cambria, also placed among the top 10 girls shooters at the state competition, finishing in a three-way tie for eighth place with a score of 85. Penn Cambria’s Natasha Ross was also among the top 20 finishers, placing 17th with a score of 61.
Mike Smith was pleased with the efforts of his top 10 shooters.
“This is only our third year as a team, and for Central Cambria to have three girls finish among the top 10 in the state, that’s pretty good stuff, good for the school,” Mike Smith said.
The day was highlighted by Jenna’s state championship.
“That’s fantastic,” Mike Smith said. “Obviously, I’m jaded because she’s my daughter, but she has really worked hard. She had a rough start to the year, she wasn’t shooting too well early in the regular season. But boy, she has really kicked into high gear in the last month or so, and she peaked at the right time.”
Shotguns are used in trap shooting to break clay birds that are released electronically from a machine about 16 yards away from the shooter. The clays are released at different angles in the air, and are traveling at a speed of over 40 miles per hour. Since the shooter has no initial idea of where the clay will be released, good hand-eye coordination is essential.
“You have to get your eyes on the target as fast as you can,” Mike Smith said.
Walwro, like Jenna and Lauren Smith, has also grown up around trap shooting. Walwro’s grandfather, father and brother have all participated in the sport.
“I’ve been shooting guns since I was a young girl, when I shot a BB gun,” Walwro said. “Shooting kind of comes naturally to me, and going out to the state meet, I was just telling myself to have fun, relax, and stay with the basics. I knew that if I did that, I would perform well, but I didn’t think it would be this well.”
Mike Smith said that trap shooting — which is a non-PIAA affiliated sport — is one of the fastest growing high school sports in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as across the nation. There are a total of 32 boys and girls high school teams across Pennsylvania, with teams participating in conferences according to roster size.
Central Cambria won its eight-team conference championship this year. The regular season begins in early April and ends in late May, and meets are held virtually and scores are submitted online to the state organization for posting.
Central Cambria holds its regular-season events on the Colver Sportsmen’s Association grounds.
“We had 28 kids out for the team this year, and for the first time this year, we had enough kids to enter the state championship event,” Mike Smith said.