By Jeff Nations
When Lou DiPaola's son Jordan first expressed an interest in competitive shooting, he had the right dad -- and mom, for that matter -- to provide the just the right amount of support and encouragement to develop in the sport.
Jordan DiPaola, a Strasburg resident, was just 9 years old then when he approached his parents about getting involved in competition.
"He wanted to shoot competitively, and at the time I was a hunter safety instructor," Lou DiPaola said. "And when Jordan joined Little North Mountain, I was asked to help coach because of my background."
Lou DiPaola was soon joined by his wife, Tracey, as coaches for the Little North Mountain 4-H Shooting Education Club. Jordan emerged soon enough as a standout on the team, and helped draw another future top shooter -- Woodstock's Abby Morrison -- into the sport about five years ago. Now both are headed to college -- Jordan gained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy, and Abby is headed to Morehead State -- and both will be competing in collegiate rifle as freshmen.
"We had a goal to help kids get to that point where they could shoot in college," Lou DiPaola said.
The DiPaolas provided the foundation, but to help their son and Morrison take the next step they found some out-of-state help. Both Jordan DiPaola and Abby Morrison joined the Hagerstown, Md.-based Antietam Junior Rifle Club to learn from 40-year rifle coaching veteran Norris Diefenderfer. Besides providing expert instruction, Diefenderfer's long-established connections with collegiate rifle coaches helped both DiPaola and Morrison get noticed as they competed in matches throughout the East Coast.
"It wouldn't have been possible without that help," Lou DiPaola said. "We wouldn't have known how to get to that next level."
Last year, the DiPaolas journeyed to Colorado Springs, Colo., to get a first-hand look at the Olympic Training Center, which boasts one of the largest indoor shooting facilities in the world. At the nearby Fort Carson military base, members of the U.S. Shooting Team hone their skills on the outdoor ranges at the International Shooting Park.
Jordan DiPaola, who was unavailable for an interview due to his Naval Academy commitments, joins a Midshipmen squad that ranked among the nation's top 20 in the NCAA-sanctioned sport last year. The Mids had an outside shot at landing a spot in the eight-team NCAA championship, but came up short in a final qualifying match.
Morrison will compete for Morehead State as the Eagles aim to move back up the Ohio Valley Conference rankings. The rifle program at Morehead State is rich in history, and Morrison said the small-town atmosphere was a real draw.
"I was looking for a school that had a rifle team, and this is the one that seemed to fit," Morrison said. "What I like about it is that it's a small place, and a really nice area. It reminds me of where I live."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>