Hornet rifle team has completes stellar season
The tradition of the Emmaus rifle team is rich to say the least. Perhaps a better word associated with the Hornets’ rifle team is “dynasty.”
After finishing as the runner-up to Southern Lehigh in the regular season with an 8-1 record, the Hornets got a bit of revenge in the playoffs. Emmaus edged the Spartans, 1,000-998 for the team playoff championship of the Northeast Pennsylvania Scholastic Rifle League.
That marked the second straight season Emmaus won the team playoff championship, and the fourth time in the last five years.
“It was payback for the one-point loss we suffered with them during the regular season,” Hornet head coach Peter Chromiak said. “That loss cost us the regular season championship and finishing the regular season in second place at 8-1.”
Emmaus won the regular season championship last year to go along with its playoff title, but this year the Hornets were just one win shy of winning both titles once again. Southern Lehigh finished 9-0 for first place. East Stroudsburg South came in third with a 7-2 regular season.
The victory over Southern Lehigh sets up another trip to the state tournament for Emmaus, which placed second at the competition last winter. This week’s trip to states will be the Hornets’ sixth straight in which Emmaus will compete with 39 other schools.
One adjustment that Emmaus must deal with in states is a change in targets. The NEPRL voted to use A-17 targets for the regular season, while the USA-50 target are still used in state competition.
“We have been practicing and getting used to the A-17 targets, which requires less precision,” Chromiak said. “Now we have to shift our focus on higher-precision shooting to score well on the USA-50’s.
“The 10 ring on an A-17 is 24 times the area of the 10 dot on the USA-50 target (Olympic and Collegiate targets). This makes it significantly easier to score 10-point shots. Last year, we had a handful of students achieve a perfect 100 score on the USA-50 targets. This year, the three top teams had over a hundred perfect scores of 100.”
The switch to the A-17 targets has led to more parity in the league, yet Emmaus still found its way to the top of the mountain. Leading the way were six Hornet individual state qualifiers, all of whom have a 99.4 average or higher.
Amber Ziegler leads the way with a 100 average and has eight scores of 100 this season. Jacob Baia (99.8), Gabriela Holmes (99.6), Jeffrey Alexander (99.6), Emilia Ramos (99.5) and Sydney Jones (99.4) also competed at states.
Ziegler and Baia were Chromiak’s captains this winter season and will graduate come the spring, but the others all return next season, setting up yet another bright future for the Hornets.
“The others will be returning next year along with Sam Rozanski, who just missed the top 20 by one point,” Chromiak said. “We have several students in our developmental program who will be returning next year as well. I think we have a good team for next year already set up.”
While Chromiak and the coaches certainly do teach the students about safety when dealing with firearms, the sport of rifle is a mental challenge that high school athletes are dealt with on the range. But plenty of practice allows those participants to perfect their craft and focus on the mental aspect of the sport.
“We teach the students some of the rules for safe firearm handling of single-shot rifles,” Chromiak said. “With the closed range setting for long rifles, we do not cover any of the rules that would apply to handguns or semi-automatic firearms.”
However the basic safety rules apply to all firearms.
“Match rifle shooting is more mental than physical,” said Chromiak. “We need to teach the students confidence and self-discipline, preparation and lots of practice. We go through over 30,000 rounds of practice ammunition each season. It’s one of the reasons we are successful. Students also learn to help each other as a team, as we ask them to help their teammates with scoping and giving them tips that they have learned through shooting for several years.”
Guthsville Rod and Gun Club hosts Emmaus’s feeder rifle programs, coached by Jody Licker and Doug Jones. With the support of the Emmaus athletic department, its sponsor Unami Fish and Game, the NRA Grant Program and the Midway Foundation Account, which is a matching donation endowment program, the Hornets’ rifle team has been around for over 40 years.