One of the memorable lines from 2003’s Oscar-nominated “Cold Mountain” came at one of the film’s climactic moments, when villainous Bosie is about to draw down against heroic Inman.
“I’ll tell you what I’ve got on my side,” Bosie says. “The confidence of youth.”
So, too, do Jason Klingele, Jake Switzer and Dakotah Eims.
The Yakima-area sharpshooters, ranging in age from 21 to 15, also share the sharp eyesight and quick reflexes of youth. But it is as much their unflappable patience and steely nerves — attributes usually hard-earned through years of experience under pressure — that has earned them phenomenal success in a sport long associated with, well, older guys.
They are trapshooters. And at the comparatively tender ages of 21 (Klingele), 17 (Switzer) and 15 (Eims), they know they can hold their own against, well, anybody.
Because they already have.
Last month, Klingele won the singles title in the Junior Gold class (ages 18 to 23) at the Washington state championships annually held in Spokane by the American Trapshooting Association, one of the sport’s two governing bodies. Two weekends ago in the state shoot in southwest Washington held by the other sanctioning body, the Pacific International Trapshooting Association (PITA), he topped the entire field in the handicap event.
Eims, meanwhile, was a multiple winner in Spokane, winning the handicap and doubles (shooting two targets, not one, on a single pull) in the Junior class (ages 15 to 17). He followed that up with the Junior handicap title at the PITA championships in Littlerock, southwest of Olympia.
And Switzer, arguably the state’s most accomplished Junior shooter over the last three years, won the singles title in the PITA shoot. Switzer’s 196 targets out of a possible 200 was just one shy of the Men’s A runner-up — who just happened to be John Klingele, Jason’s father, a shooter with a two-decade advantage in trapshooting experience.
To make this even more of a family affair, Jason Klingele and Eims are distant cousins. And both are regulars at the Pomona range in Selah, where the driving force for two decades until his 2010 death was Wayne Klingele — Jason’s grandfather, John’s father and the man Switzer credits as being the mentor who “took me under his wing.”
“You could say trapshooting is really a dying sport, because of the fact that a lot of (the active shooters) are older people,” Jason Klingele says. “But the younger generation is coming up, I think. We have better eyes, better reaction time.”
Klingele is quick to add, though, that older shooters have the edge in concentration, and — their recent run of success notwithstanding — neither Klingele nor either of his young counterparts is about to walk up to the line at the Pomona range feeling unbeatable.
“I wouldn’t say we’re the best out there,” Klingele says, “because I go out there every Sunday and get my ass kicked by some old guys.”
Klingele’s handicap championship is arguably the state shoot’s most sought-after title, since it basically comes down to who’s the hottest at the right time from among the 1,000-plus entrants in the state championships. The event pits competitors of all experience levels shooting at distances as close as 16 yards from the trap house to as far back as 27 yards, based on their career achievement and level of expertise. (Hence the “handicap” tag.)
Some shooters never advance past the 16-yard line. Klingele won his PITA state handicap title shooting from the 22-yard line. Eims, who’s been shooting competitively for only two years, is already at the 21. And Switzer is the rarest of junior shooters, having earned his spot at the 27.
“Jake’s really accomplished a lot,” Eims says, “especially for still being in the Juniors.”
One of Switzer’s first major coups, in fact, came when the prodigy was still too young to realize how big it was. At the 2008 PITA Grand Pacific — an annual event drawing the best shooters from the western United States and Canada — he tied for first in a handicap event and ended up losing in a shootoff with Daro Handy.
Handy is a legend among trapshooters, a 16-time All-America team member who had been inducted into the PITA Hall of Fame 12 years earlier — the same year Switzer was born.
“I was too young to know how special it was,” says Switzer, now entering his senior year at Eisenhower. “I didn’t really know what it was when I was shooting for it. That was a pretty cool one that I found out about later, because I didn’t know the names of the other people in the sport yet.”
Eims is rapidly becoming one of those names other shooters must reckon with, but the sophomore-to-be at Naches Valley admits, “I still get nervous. It’s kind of hard not to get nervous. But when you’re shooting, you’ve kind of got to forget about the rest of what’s going on. It’s more mental than it is physical.”
Is that it? Do these three young shooters have some kind of mental edge that others do not?
“I have no secret for it. I have no clue,” Switzer says. “You just have to focus shot after shot after shot, 100 in a row,” he says. “If you lose focus for even a second, you can miss a bird, and one bird can make all the all the difference in a title.”
Klingele agrees that being able to clear the mind of distractions is critical to a shooter’s success.
“It’s a completely mental thing,” Klingele says. “The confidence is how you control your mind, because your mind doesn’t want to be there. Your mind wants to be thinking about something else going on — you’ve got a thousand things to think about. But you have to concentrate: You see the bird, you shoot the bird.” In trapshooting lingo, that’s what the clay target is: the bird.
“When you walk off the line,” Klingele adds, “your brain feels like mush because you’ve been concentrating so hard for every bird for 100 birds that you really don’t have anything left.”
Concentration is something Klingele has in no short supply. After graduating in the top 5 percent of his 2011 class at Davis, where he was an all-conference relief pitcher, he earned an academic scholarship to the University of Washington, where he’s studying biology and thinking of minoring in mathematics.
In hopes of doing what for a career?
“I have no idea,” Klingele laughs.
This much is certain: The 82nd Grand Pacific is going on this week, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the names of Klingele, Switzer or Eims among the top shooters.
“You’ve got to think, can I do it? Can I win?” Eims says. “But I try not to think about it, because thinking’s one of the worst things you can do. After you shoot so much, it’s just a reaction.
“If you start thinking too much, you can think yourself right out of it.”
It’s a safe bet, then, that these guys aren’t giving it another thought.