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Difilippo ambassador for scholastic clay program

Bob Frye
| Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jon Difilippo has been an alter server at his church. He's been a member of the National Honor Society, drama club and news team at California Area High School. He's been a sports announcer and a disc jockey.

Now, he's a national ambassador.

Difilippo, who graduated from California on Friday, is one of the two first-ever ambassadors for the Scholastic Clay Target Program, a national youth shooting program focusing on trap, skeet and sporting clays. He was chosen for the role a few months ago after submitting his resume, transcripts of his grades and letters of recommendation.

The program's other ambassador is Corey Spruill, a senior-to-be at a high school in Missouri.

"I was really humbled," is how the 18-year-old Difilippo said he reacted to news of his appointment. "I didn't want to get too excited because I wasn't sure exactly what was in front of me, but it was pretty neat."

Being named an ambassador is no small feat, said Russ Arnold, executive director of the Target Program

"We have about 7,000 athletes participating in the program nationwide, and right now, we have two ambassadors we've chosen from among them, so it's a pretty elite group," he said. "I'd take those odds."

The exact role of an ambassador is something that's still being determined to a degree. The program's leaders first conceived of creating ambassadors about four years ago, but this is the first time any have been chosen, Arnold said, so the questions of how, where and when to use them are still being answered.

But Difilippo — who's been competing in the Target Program since 2008 as a member of the Smokin' Guns at California Hill Gun Club — was at the U.S. Olympic Shooting Center in Colorado Springs over Memorial Day weekend mingling with the nation's top gunners, and he'll be at other events throughout the remainder of the year.

He'll be touting not only the Target Program, but shooting in general, and safety in particular, he said.

Those are things he knows all about. He's been a member of two championship teams with the Smokin' Guns and last year ranked ninth individually in the program.

"The target program is great because it teaches teamwork," Difilippo said. "Shooting is an individual sport in a lot of ways, but when you're on a three-man squad, if one guy's score is off, another teammate can pick him up, or the other way around. You work together.

"And it teaches responsibility and the number one thing, which is safety. I always say, if you're educated about guns and the potential they have, you're better off, especially when it comes to kids."

The Target Program is for boys and girls in grades five to 12, "whoever can handle a shotgun and wants to shoot," said Phil "Flip" Difilippo, Jon's father and coach of the Smokin' Guns. It's unique in at least one way, too, he added.

No stranger to competition -- he's a former Pony League baseball coach -- Dilfilippo said that in clay target shooting, students try hard to beat each other, but also support each other.

"The shooters, even the parents, when one does well, all of the others recognize that and show a lot of respect and support. It's nice to see," he said.

His son — who plans to attend California (Pa.) this fall and study broadcasting — is responsible for making sure that tradition carries on, among other things. It's a job he welcomes.

"As ambassadors, we're guys who have been through the program and can give some positive feedback on what it's like. That's what I'm going to try to do," he said.

Additional Information:

Scholastic Clay Target Program at a glance

Affiliation: The SCTP is a division of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Teams within Pennsylvania: 22, including those in California, Edinboro, Evans City, Rochester, Rochester and Russell.

Title: The SCTP team championships will be held July 13-16 at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Ill.

More information: Visit www.sssfonline.org .

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