Story by John Koney
Five years ago seems like so long ago for Jack Gerstmeier. At the age of 10 1/2, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Type 1 diabetes means that your pancreas no longer produces insulin that turn sugar and carbs into energy your body can use. It meant from now on he would require at least 4 shots a day to control his blood sugar for this chronic disease.
The diagnosis took a toll on him both mentally and physically. He quit playing volleyball and basketball because it was very hard to control his diabetes early on. He was at the age where hormones and growth spurts wreak havoc on normal middle school boys, but trying to control blood sugars while your body begins that process is a challenge all in itself. Sports were no longer an important part of his daily life.
Gradually things improved as he adjusted to his new normal. A year into his diagnosis he began receiving insulin through an insulin pump, which eliminated the 4 insulin shots each day. Things were slowly getting easier.
Knowing how important it is to be active and involved he was approached by his dad and asked if he had any interest in trap shooting. His grandparents had been league trap shooters at the Waukesha Gun Club while his dad was growing up. He was excited to give it a try. He was ready to find something he could be good at with or without diabetes.
Fast forward 3 years, Jack is now a varsity trap shooter for Poplar Creek Claybusters. He started at the intermediate level while in 8th grade. He traveled throughout southeastern Wisconsin shooting in tournaments and improving his skills that season. On June 26, 2016, he went to Rome, Wisconsin to shoot in the SCTP State Trap Tournament. He participated in the 21yd intermediate handicap and took 3rd place. This was a huge accomplishment for him in year one.
While continuing to shoot trap for a second season, he was asked to tryout for a pistol and rifle team. He joined Lake Country Action Shooters (LCAS) in late May, 2017. He immediately began practices and on June 11, joined LCAS at State in Sturgeon Bay, WI. This would be his first pistol and rifle competition and the weather provided him a great challenge. Many of the teams opted to wait out the storm. Jack’s coach insisted they persevere, if they could shoot in this they could shoot in anything. The team walked away with two 1st place ribbons for center fire pistol and optic rifle. It was quite an accomplishment in the few weeks he was with the team.
Just a short 6 weeks after state, LCAS traveled to SASP Nationals in Marengo, Ohio. With a few additional weeks of practice for Jack, his JV squad walked away with three 1st place ribbons in optic rifle, iron rifle, and center fire pistol and a 2nd place in 1911. He returned to Marengo again in October this time as a member of the varsity squad and came home with four first place medals.
To improve upon his success from the year before with Poplar Creek, Jack’s JV Squad took 1st place in the NWCTC Eastern Division Conference. Jack continued to improve, putting up some personal bests.
With all the successes with his shooting teams last season, in August, 2017 Jack received the “artificial pancreas”. This is still not a cure for type 1 diabetes, but definitely a game changer for him. His continual blood sugar roller coasters have almost disappeared. His new pump, regulates his blood sugar with the use of a continuous glucose monitor that gives his pump blood sugar readings every 5 minutes and decides to give or not give him insulin based on the numbers. He is finally starting to feel “normal” again, thanks to the latest and greatest in medical technology.
He is off to a great start again this year with both Poplar Creek Claybusters and Lake Country Action Shooters. For the first time in 2 years, he has had two 24/25 rounds this week. He is aiming for that 25/25 perfect round. He continues to work on reducing his time with pistol and rifle as he shoots at the varsity level this year. He looks forward to finishing this season strong in both disciplines, while looking ahead to the future. He continues to manage type 1 diabetes through technology and self discipline and is not going to let it stop him from achieving his goals.
Jack credits the SCTP and SASP organizations for providing alternative sports for today’s youth. The coaching he has received in both disciplines and his continued development has given him a new level of confidence. His coaching and training along with his new pump allow him to walk up to the line not as a diabetic but as a competitor just like everyone else.