East Juniata rifle squad back on target
MIFFLINTOWN — After a year off due to COVID, the East Juniata air rifle team — a coed squad that includes students from Juniata High School as well — is back in business.
The plan is to try and compete against other teams and clubs in the region, but due to the fact that there are no other local teams most matches will be postal matches, in which the team shoots at a designated location and then mails the score cards to the opponent for scoring.
The team currently exists as a club, meaning it is not eligible for PIAA (postseason) competition, but the goal is to eventually attain that status as the program grows.
The team consists of 16 members along with a team manager, coached by Danny Reed and assistant coaches Bob Schifano and Justin Berkheimer.
The air rifle team was started as an alternative to more traditional sports to get as many kids involved as possible and have a positive experience at East Juniata and Juniata High Schools. This is only the second full year for the program; it existed in 2019-2020 as well.
Reed said the sport had to be put on hold the last couple years.
“The pandemic is one reason and Rod Shoop, a teacher and the one who started the program as its first coach, retired from teaching and moved out of the area,” Reed said. “He came back to help restart the sport and was instrumental in getting the team organized this year.”
The air rifle team is a winter activity that runs through mid-February and is offered to students in ninth through 12th grades.
“I work in full time youth ministry with Central PA Youth Ministries, so this is another way for me to connect and build relationships with teens,” Reed said. “Coaching has always been something I’ve wanted to do
“The team is doing really well. They are fast learners and great at taking advice from the coaches,” he added. “I’m really excited to see them grow and improve as the season progresses.”
A few of the team members shared what it means to them and what they are learning by being part of the team.
“Through air rifle I have learned to be more steady and patient,” freshman Chase Kerstetter said.
“I did it two years ago with Mr. Shoop and I really enjoyed it so I am excited to be back and do it again,” junior Andrew Smith said.
“I am excited to see my skills improve during the season,” sophomore Zoey Lower said.