Early College High School juniors, Jonathan Phipps and Michael Machner spend their Thursday evenings doing homework between shooting practices at the Rio Gun Club.
With a strong will to receive an associate’s degree along with their high school diploma come June 2018 , these teens have not only managed to stay at the top of their class, but they are also nationally recognized in recreational shooting through the Scholastic Action Shooting Program.
“We are part of a large team called the South Texas Shooters. We all compete through the SASP but we can only compete as a 4-person squad. Jonathan and I are part of the same squad,” Machner said. “In this competition, we shoot four different stages five times each. Scores are calculated depending on how fast you can shoot. SASP allows us to compete at regional, state, and national levels.”
Machner first heard about SASP at the Rio Gun Club gun range.
“I showed up one day and I saw some people shooting steel targets,” Machner said. “I tried it myself and later the owner, who is a family friend, asked me if I wanted to join a steel shooting competition.”
A year after Machner began shooting at SASP competitions, he convinced Phipps to join him.
“I was involved in so many other extracurricular activities at that time but Michael called me a bunch of times and I eventually went out and shot with them,” Phipps said. “It was nice to see how everyone can be on a level playing field and you can really focus on bettering yourself and each other.”
The most important lesson that recreational shooters learn and teach in this sport is gun safety.
“I want to let everybody know that there is a lot of safety involved. We have some very good coaches that are always watching out for safety. The organization as a whole pushes gun safety at all of the matches,” Phipps said.
On top of gun safety, shooting also teaches them skills they can use in the classroom. For Machner shooting has helped him reduce anxiety when taking tests and opened up college opportunities.
“In 2014, we went to the regional shoot, which is hosted in college station. I won high overall in my division and after I got my award, the head coach from the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets came up to me and told me about a shooting scholarship,” Machner said. ” Ever since that day, I have been so motivated to go to Texas A&M and it has really driven me to keep my grades up.”
Phipps has also been approached by schools offering him scholarships at these competitions.
“Our team does very well. Last year we got first place at regionals and at state. This year we got first at regionals, state, and nationals. Michael and I got the highest overall scores at nationals,” Phipps said.
Both Machner and Phipps are set to take part in the 2017 SASP Regional competition that will take place in February.