- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - Alexander Sacopulos just started trap shooting in snowy February, but in August, the 13-year-old can proudly call himself a winner of a national trap shooting competition.

Alex tied for first place in his category at the 2014 National Grand American tournament at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois. He was among more than 15,000 amateurs who participated in the tournament earlier this month, organized by the Amateur Trapshooting Association.

Trapshooting is a form of competitive clay pigeon shooting. In trap shooting, targets are launched from a machine away from the shooter, who then shoots it with a shotgun. Alex described it as a “mental game” that requires focus.

On Sunday, Alex practiced his skills at Terre Haute Sporting Clays, just like he did seven hours a week over the last six months.

“Pull!” he shouted, before shooting the clay target with a Beretta Silver Pigeon shotgun and shattering the pigeon to pieces.

At the trap range, he spoke about his love of the unique sport and his surprise about winning.

“It was love at first sight,” the Terre Haute native told the Tribune-Star (http://bit.ly/1pXTO8k ), recalling the time he first tried trap shooting. He has tried other types of shooting but he felt “this is for me.”

And he brought this passion to several qualifying rounds and into the national competition itself.

“I thought I might get in the top 10, maybe top five if I was lucky. I didn’t have any clue that I would win,” Alex said. “It really took a couple days just to sink in that I was a national champion at something.”

It may have taken some time for Alex to adjust to his success, but he certainly prepared to achieve it. In addition to many hours of practice with his coach and team at the Terre Haute Sporting Clays, 1041 W. Sandford Ave., he also attended an intensive shooting camp in Texas.

In the end, he said, his hard work, determination and belief in himself contributed to the win.

“I think I was probably one of the only ones crazy enough to come out here in February, shovel six inches of snow so I can shoot trap,” he said laughing.

His coach, Doyne Borders, praised the 13-year-old’s determination and his parents’ commitment.

“The parents were very understanding. They brought him out to practice,” said Borders, who co-owns Terre Haute Sporting Clays. “That’s what it takes to succeed.”

Shooting sports require a group effort, he said, because they are usually expensive and time-consuming.

Borders said he was proud of the team of three - which included Alex - that represented the facility.

“I’m really tickled to death with them,” he said.

Borders was especially proud of Alex for winning his class level. The tournament placed participants in classes based on their shooting ability. AAA is the highest class, and D is the lowest. Alex was in the C class, junior division. Borders hopes to train Alex to move up a class next year.

Others around Alex are proud of his accomplishment.

Parents Michael and Darla Sacopulos - who were with Alex during practice on Sunday - said they are “very proud and elated” about Alex’s win. They praised the improvements he had made in the challenging sport, in such a short amount of time.

And Alex is expected to keep getting better.

The Otter Creek Middle School student, who said he also enjoys tennis, football, basketball and other sports, said he plans to continue with trap shooting. It is a sport that gives him a “sense of accomplishment” and has brought him many friends, he said. He hopes to compete in as many tournaments as he can. He even has an eye on the Olympics.

And as he proceeds with the sport, he plans to remember one thing he has learned so far: keep his focus. This is also a life lesson he will always carry.

“You can’t focus on other people,” he said. “You need to focus on yourself.”

___

Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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