Irondale, Mounds View join trap-shooting craze


Mounds View sophomore Luke Swenson busts a target at the range during one of the team’s practices at the Metro Gun Club in Blaine. (submitted photo)

Since 2001, trap shooting has been a club sport in high schools in Minnesota. Growth was slow at first but took off around 2009 and the number of teams and shooters has doubled each year since.

The Mounds View school district got in on the act this spring with teams at both Irondale and Mounds View. It took a few years to get approval, but now there are Knights and Mustangs representing their schools on the gun range.

“I’m a hunter and when I read about it, I thought, ‘Well, that’s great,’” said Mounds View head coach Tom Landwehr. “I’ve always been trying to figure out how to get a sport in schools that kids who aren’t necessarily big or athletic can do that also can be co-ed—because the girls can shoot as good as the boys.”

Landwehr said he had heard from parents who read articles about other high school trap-shooting teams and wanted to get something going at Mounds View and Irondale, which is coached by Tom Sully.

Short registration window

The approval for teams for this spring came through in late February and shooters had to be registered by March 15 to compete in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League.

With the short window to inform the kids at the schools about the opportunity, it was a scramble to recruit team members. Irondale ended up with 30 kids out for the team while Mounds View rounded up 19.

Landwehr was anticipating up to 30 coming out for Mounds View’s team, but looking back is happy with 19.

“It was all we could do to get that many,” Landwehr said. “In retrospect I was pleased to get 19.”

Being that this is the first year for the team, there is some trial and error that goes into getting everything organized. Just getting time at the gun range can be a challenge.

“Frankly, for the first year I’m very pleased with that number because we’re all learning,” Landwehr said. “I don’t want to learn with 50 kids, I want to learn with 20. This is a very manageable number.”

Hastings High School has a trap-shooting team with about 120 members, a number that almost makes Landwehr dizzy while thinking about trying to keep track of that many kids at a gun range.

Participants from all backgrounds

The backgrounds of the team members are varied. There are kids who play the more mainstream sports in other seasons like Molly Hancuh of the girls soccer team and Joe Moelnaar from the football team. Then there is Lucy Hansen, who doesn’t play any other sports at Mounds View but decided to give trap shooting a go.

“My dad goes shooting and he took me with him,” said Hansen, a sophomore. “When I heard about this over the school announcements I thought it would be fun.”

Hansen said her friends aren’t into it, but that didn’t stop her from joining the team.

“I think it’s different,” Hansen said. “It’s fun. It’s just something new to try.”

The team also includes senior Colton Langer, who knows a thing or two about trap shooting. Langer is a two-time All-American and was the 2012 American Trapshooting Association junior world champion.

Langer has parlayed his skill as a trap-shooter into a college scholarship. He is set to attend Midland University in Fremont, Neb., on a shooting scholarship. The Midland shotgun sports team is coached by Bret Erickson, a four-time Olympian.

As for the Mounds View team, Langer displays a sense of pride.

“Now that we finally have a team, I’m trying to keep it alive,” Langer said. “You never know. Somebody could be really, really good at it. Who would’ve thought I’d be really, really good at this?”

Local teams rank high

Mounds View and Irondale both practice and do their competition shoots at Metro Gun Club in Blaine. The first of five weeks of competition shoots were completed last week. Each team completes the shoots at their respective ranges and they submit their certified scores online. The results are compiled and posted on the clay target league website at mnclaytarget.com.

Teams are organized into one of 25 conferences. Irondale is in a conference with Hibbing, Rockford, Badger-Greenbush-Middle River, Hermantown, Sibley East, Canby and Norwood Young America. Mounds View is grouped in with Walker/Hackensack/Akeley, Pequot Lakes, Dassel-Cokato, Legacy Christian Academy, Math and Science Academy, Bloomington Kennedy, Kimball, Lakeview and St. Louis Park.

After the first week, Mounds View was fifth in its conference while Irondale was seventh in its conference.

A trap-shooting team at St. Anthony Village has been in place for a few years. Jeff Halet is a parent volunteer who leads the team while Peter Victorine is a school staff member who also helps.

St. Anthony competes in a conference with Brainerd, Mound Westonka, South St. Paul, Kasson-Mantorville, Roseau, Willmar and Breckenridge. The Huskies were in fifth place after week one and their top shooters were Ryan Bernardy and Josh DePauw for the boys and Kailyn Schmitt for the girls.

State meet held in June

The spring season culminates with a tournament in Alexandria on the first weekend of June and about 4,000 shooters are expected to compete. The top teams and individuals from the Alexandria tournament will be invited to the Minnesota State High School League state tournament at Minneapolis Gun Club on June 14.

Once the season is over, there will be another push to recruit new members to replace the seniors and repopulate the team for a league in the fall.

In addition to being on a team and representing their school, team members can also earn a varsity letter for trap shooting. There are specific criteria each competitor must meet to earn a letter, just like in any other sport sanctioned by the school.

This year, the state clay target league has grown to about 6,000 competitors from 275 schools.

“It’s kind of a different twist on your traditional team sports,” Landwehr said.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

 

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