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Young shooter earns rookie of year honors

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Claiming a title

Forget winning a rookie of the year title. It's not easy even to qualify for consideration.

To be considered for an award – Trap and Field gives out three for North America, one for men, one for women and one for juniors – shooters have take aim at a minimum of 1,500 singles, which are clay birds launched one at a time, and 500 handicap targets, where the shooter's distance from the birds is determined by their skill and ranking, all within one season.

Would-be honorees also have to submit an application and a letter. A three-person committee picks a winner.

Adam Burke was chosen because he not only met the requirements, but also “did some big winning,” said Sandy Tidwell, senior editor of the magazine.

Thursday, May 2, 2013, 11:24 p.m.

Really, everyone should have seen this coming.

In school, as a sophomore at Albert Gallatin High School, 16-year-old Adam Burke carries a 4.5 grade-point average while taking advanced placement classes. When he raced quarter horses, he rose to rank fourth in the nation among his peers.

So when he took up trap shooting, of course he excelled.

He was recently named Rookie of the Year in the youth division for 2012 by “Trap and Field,” the official magazine of the Amateur Trapshooting Association.

“When he does something, he does it well,” said his mother, Nancy Burke.

His rise was impressive. He's not been a lifelong shooter; neither of his parents shoot at all. He only got involved after one of his horses died, in fact.

But when he made up his mind to give it a try through the local 4-H program, he went all in.

“It became addicting,” Burke said. “I started shooting 100 targets a week, then it got to be 400 targets on my peak weeks. I just couldn't get enough.”

At Fayette Gun Club, his home range, he met Joe Kislan of Connellsville, a sporting clays instructor. He credits Kislan with turning him into a better shooter.

Kislan said other trap-specific instructors helped. But Burke's attitude was the key to his growth, he said.

“He was an excellent student, just excellent. You showed him something once, and he did just that. He struggled a bit at first, but he had the desire to get better and improve his shooting skills,” Kislan said.

The Pennsylvania State Shoot is the largest trap shoot in the state — and one of the largest of its kind in the country — each year.

Burke recorded his first perfect score there, breaking 100 consecutive targets on his way to winning 18 awards.

“It's hard work, and it takes time, but it pays off in the end,” Burke said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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