Griffin Lake brings home state championship


Photo courtesy of East Penn School District.

Victoria Bruckler, Columnist

For the first time in East Penn sports history, Emmaus High School has its first ever state champion in rifle.

This March, Emmaus sophomore Griffin Lake brought home the individual gold medal at states, making him the first Hornet to do so in the co-ed program, according to Athletic Director Rebecca George. Overall, Emmaus’ team came in fourth at the state championship. 

Unlike other high school sports where teen athletes can feed off the thrill of crowds and cheers, rifle teams are different. There isn’t any tackling, scoring runs, and adrenaline-filled rushes. The sport requires a tranquil atmosphere for the shooters so they can focus on hitting their targets.

For rifle competition, the best way to earn points is to shoot for the middle target instead of hitting different rings. The middle of the targets are worth 10 points, and the targets are each worth 100 points. Depending on matches, the amount of targets to hit varies; high school is usually one target, and at high school state competitions, they usually have four targets. 

But to the shooter, the state championship apparently wasn’t a huge deal.

 “I don’t care; this is not really that big of a match compared to the ones that I do,” said Lake, who has been shooting for four and a half years.

Instead, he focuses more on the matches he participates in with his gun club outside of school. There are more opportunities for him to compete outside of high school competitions.

“I go to national matches, and [I’ve gone to] the Junior Olympics a couple of times,” Lake said.

He describes the high school team as more of a side commitment, because the high school squad isn’t set up to lead him to go to college for a rifle scholarship.

“My main team is set [up] to go to college,” Lake said. “We’ve had, the past 3 or 4 years, someone [go] to college to shoot,” Lake said.

At his club team, Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club, athletes use a .22-caliber rifle to shoot at targets in three different positions: prone, kneeling, and standing. In high school competition, athletes use one position, standing. 

While rifle is not a common sport across the nation, several schools in the area compete, including Southern Lehigh, Freedom, Liberty, Stroudsburg, North Pocono, East Stroudsburg North and South, and Berwick. More than a dozen colleges offer competitive rifle teams as a scholarship sport, while even more provide rifle clubs. 

While gun ownership in the United States has long been a political issue, organizations like the Civilian Marksmanship Program emphasize that with 100,000 U.S. teens competing, the marksmanship activities have “an outstanding safety record.”

“Rifle marksmanship activities are indeed among the safest of all youth sports. Target shooting is a sport of control and discipline where everyone involved, including participants, instructors, coaches and range officers, is expected to know and apply the sport’s safety rules at all times,” according to the CMP.  Some rifle teams — including five in Pennsylvania last year — receive funding from the National Rifle Association to defray costs of equipment.