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Shot down again

For the second consecutive season, local target shooters have tried and failed to persuade the Medford School District to sign off on a trap-shooting team.

Last month, two South Medford High School students, Cole Costanti and Grace Ede, and one North Medford High School student, Zeb Kitchen, appealed to the Medford School Board to sponsor a team in the Oregon State High School Clay Target League.

Costanti, Ede and five other South Medford students shoot for a team at Cascade Christian High School. The league allows shooters to join outside teams if their school does not have a team and is willing to “release” them to join an outside team.

Kitchen had hoped to shoot for Cascade this season, but the district failed to complete the necessary paperwork in time for him to participate.

While four of the five board members present at the June 19 board meeting expressed their support of the idea, Superintendent Brian Shumate told the board that district officials were still exploring the costs of increased liability insurance and the risks associated with the sport.

“I’m not anti-skeet shooting at all,” Shumate told the board. “It’s just that we have to look out for the best interests of the district.”

District officials declined to be interviewed on the subject and instead released the following statement:

“Medford School District parents and volunteers approached the district this year to consider sponsoring a high school clay target shooting league team or teams. After consideration, the district agreed to release students to participate on the Cascade Christian High School Team. Students and families asked the school district to reconsider sponsoring a team. The district will be diligent in its research and consult with its new board on the matter. We are pleased that several Medford students enjoyed success in the Cascade program this year.”

Last weekend, eight members of Cascade’s team, including five from South Medford, participated in the league’s state tournament in Hillsboro. Chase Costanti, a SMHS freshman and Cole’s younger brother, placed third overall, hitting 96 out of 100 clay discs, and finished with the highest season average in the state. Ede placed first in the women’s division, hitting 88 out of 100 discs.

Chase's and Cole’s dad, Ryan Costanti, is a longtime target shooter and helped to start Cascade’s clay target program while waiting for the Medford district to make a decision about the club.

“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the United States right now,” he told the board. “There are over 45,000 kids in the United States shooting trap now in the high school clay target program. Each state has their own program. It’s fairly new to Oregon. This (will be) the third year. It started with three teams. ... This year, we had 15 teams, and we’re hoping for 30 next year.”

The program promotes gun safety, and every student is required to take the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hunter education course or earn their Student Athlete Firearm Education certification from the U.S. High School Clay Target League to participate in the club, Costanti said.

The season lasts about six weeks, and local students shoot every Tuesday night and Sunday afternoon at the Medford Gun Club off Vilas Road.

Each student shoots 50 clay discs each, and their top score each week is posted online to be ranked against other students and teams around the state.

This season, nearly 200 students from 15 high schools statewide participated in the sport.

Cascade’s coach, Mel Weeks, said the school has not received any negative feedback for sponsoring a shooting team and has not incurred any additional costs, as the league insures all its shooters.

Clay target shooting is one of the most popular clubs in the Hermiston School District, according to Larry Usher, the district’s athletics and activities director.

The Hermiston High School team had more than 40 students participate in the club this year and won the state championship the last two years, Usher said.

While the district did not assume any additional costs by sponsoring the club, administrators asked the club to purchase additional liability insurance that would protect the district.

Ryan Costanti said students pay a $35 activity fee to the club and cover the cost of their weapon and ammunition. He said none of the students exceeded $200 in costs last year.

Shooting events are never held on the high school campus, nor are guns allowed on campus, he said.

All the district has been asked to do is sign a form with the name of the team and coach and send it to the Oregon State High School Clay Target League so students can begin enrolling in the club, he said.

“The biggest benefit is that it’s a no-cut sport, so anyone who wants to participate can,” he said. “We can have as many members on the team as we want. There is even a chair-sitting division so kids in wheelchairs can shoot.”

At the Medford board meeting, Kitchen shared with the board that he had been in a car accident as a child and, as a result of the injuries, cannot play contact sports.

“But I have been shooting since before I can remember and never had any problems with safety or anything,” he said.

— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

South Medford High School's Cole Costanti, shown here practicing at the Medford Rifle & Pistol Club, is among those trying to persuade the Medford School District to allow them to form a shooting team. [Mail Tribune / File Photo]