Gowanda trap team impact felt throughout athletic community

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski Gowanda Trap coaches Ed Bugenhagen, middle, and Ryan Schwartzott, right, give a presentation to the Gowanda Board of Education on the impact the team made in its first year. Also pictured in the team shirt and standing is student-athlete TJ Ackley (left).

GOWANDA – Eighth-grader Tim “TJ” Ackley Jr. has never played a sport for Gowanda coming into 2018. Then he found himself promoting a Gowanda first-year team, practicing after a low-scoring day and found a way to be competitive in a field he is interested in.

All thanks to the Gowanda trap team.

Ackley attended a recent Gowanda Board of Education meeting with Gowanda trap coaches Ed Bugenhagen and Ryan Schwarzott. Ackley was the student-athlete stating his views on the unique school-sponsored sport.

“I didn’t like track,” Ackley said. “I didn’t like baseball. For the first year of trap, I thought ‘I’ll give it a shot.'”

“Quite literally,” Board of Education member Daniel Edward York said quickly after.

For the first year, the team has 27 athletes and two team managers. Head coach Schwarzott is leading the inaugural season and finding immediate success through student engagement. He aims to instill real-life experiences by stressing academics and safety.

“Obviously safety is our top priority,” Schwarzott said. “Students are taught firearm safety. Every time we go out there, they are reminded, and we are at the point where we know what we do.”

As the OBSERVER previously reported, when a student doesn’t pass all his/her courses, Schwarzott will not allow them to perform. Thus, the students who don’t do well in academics, will count as a “0” score and hurt the team.

“Just like in my home, academics are stressed,” Schwarzott said. “Student first, athlete second.”

Ackley, however, has been seeing a difference in his competitiveness. He averages around 18-20 for a score that maxes out at 25. Coach Bugenhagen added that he has the dedication to do better on bad-shooting events.

“He went back out there after the round that he wasn’t really happy with,” Bugenhagen said. “He stayed after even though our official time is done and I’m going to put that extra work into it to make sure I can maintain those scores.”

The school team will also be a club in the fall. The club will not have school funding but has received many donations. Collins Conservation Club and Gowanda Rifle Club have donated to the team and the coaches noted that Crowell’s, Johnson Heating, Gowanda Free and Accepted Masons are also possible funders.

As the season rounds out for 2018, Gowanda has came from up from a struggling last place and has topped up-north rivals Eden. Shooters like Connor Wight have broken New York state’s top 100 at 65 out of 1,128 and second in the conference. Cameron Wight is 28 in the conference and 209 in the state. Everette Golden is 44th in the conference and 385 in the state.

All the student’s achievements would have been moot, if not for a shooting sport to help educate and motivate Gowanda students to do better on the field and in the classroom.