St. Francis and Coon Rapids trap shooters took part in their first state clay target tournament at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.
The June 14 tournament was the first to be presented by the Minnesota State High School League along with the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League.
Team and individual titles were handed out with participants qualifying for state during the clay target league’s five-week regular season.
Teams had to qualify for the MSHSL state meet during the Clay Target League’s championship in Alexandria June 6-10, which included nearly 4,000 registered shooters.
According to the pretournament release from the state high school league, the event in Prior Lake was much smaller with only 104 individuals and 24 teams of five plus two alternates taking part.
Students had to possess a State Firearm Safety Training Certificate from the Department of Natural Resources before joining the team.
The average score of the individual entrants ranged from 22.4 to 24.7, which is based on shooting four rounds with 25 targets per round.
Trap shooters stand 16 feet behind a structure known as the trap house that randomly throws targets into the air at an arc between 17-27 degrees and side to side.
A perfect score is 100 points and each athlete shoots 100 rounds.
St. Francis placed seventh (468) and Coon Rapids was 10th (457) among the 24 teams that were grouped into one class after competing in one of five classes during the Clay Target League portion of the season.
Scoring for St. Francis: Erin Lokke (97); Kyle Sweeney (96); Hunter Roeder (95); Logan Moe (94) and Max Sullivan (86). Erin Lokke, a sophomore, posted a career-high score to lead the Saints and Sweeney completed his fourth season with the team with the second-best score.
At Alexandria the week before, St. Francis had some impressive results including a 50-straight score by Moe and eight participants reached the 25-straight level. The Saints Novice and JV teams won their respective divisions while the varsity team tied for second place.
Erin Lokke shot the high gun mark for varsity and twin sister Sara Lokke did the same for the JV level with matching scores of 93. Wyatt Henjum had the high gun score for the novice division with a 70.
St. Francis finished the regular season third in Class AAA Conference 4 behind champion Monticello and runner-up Anoka.
Coach Ken Sonnenfeld said the team continues to grow and this year included 43 participants, 38 of whom took part in the Alexandria event.
Scoring for Coon Rapids: Dan Groess (92); Colton Sveningson (92); Shawn Doolittle (92); Brian Welsch (91) and Will Bucheger (90).
Individually: Sveningson shot an 84 to tie for 78th place under what Coach Gary Alexander described as gusty winds and rain.
Buffalo won the team title in which boys and girls compete as one team with a 489 after three individuals shot 99s and another came through with a 100. Monticello was runner-up with a 483 and St. Michael-Albertville was third with a 480.
Coon Rapids won the Class AA Conference 5 title ahead of runner-up Cretin-Derham Hall (1,910.5 points) and third-place Andover (2,410 points) during the five-week regular season with 33 students scoring points.
Eight of the 25 all-conference honorees went to Coon Rapids boys. Payton Bolander placed third on the female all-conference list.
That success continued at the Clay Target League 2014 Championship where the Cardinals were the top qualifying Class AA team, edging Hibbing by one point, 470-469.
Seven members qualified to represent the team at the Prior Lake tournament.
Bolander was the second highest shooting female in the junior varsity rankings and Hunter Procal was third for the males to help the team place fifth.
“These students have worked very hard to accomplish what they have in such a short period of time,” Coon Rapids coach Gary Alexander said as the team recently completed its first full year of competition and went from 24 students to 33 this spring.
“To be considered a top-10 team with only one year shooting completed is a testament to the dedication and competitiveness these students demonstrated all year,” Alexander said.
The running joke around the team revolves around its dedication to the sport, not necessarily practice time. “We don’t practice,” he said, with a chuckle. “We win championships. We do our shooting on league night.”
During the Alexandria event, Alexander asked the team if they wanted to practice more over the summer.
A resounding no was the response.
“‘You make it just fun for us. There are no expectations. We like to come out and shoot.’ And we guide them but we have a great group of assistant coaches that talk with them before each shoot and I give them something to work on and they go out and do that.
“No pressure, just come out and shoot.”
They had plenty of newcomers to the sport, but they practiced with family or with more individualized time on the gun range with coaches.
“We had a couple that never shot a gun before but a majority of them progressed well from shooting seven to 10 targets (out of 25) to a couple of them finished in the 15-17 range,” co-head coach Mike Weber said. “It’s something you have to practice to do well at.”
As a result, the team wins championships and rarely has a participant miss an event.
“Championships are fun to win but we look at this as a lifetime sport,” Alexander said.
Look for Coon Rapids to add a skeet shooting team in the fall.
Spring Lake Park trap
In its first year in the program Spring Lake Park garnered 11th place in the Class A Junior Varsity Clay Target League championships in Alexandria.
The 20-member team brought 10 participants to the Alexandria meet to help gain experience for what should be a promising program in the years to come.
Teams competed in one of three levels including novice, junior varsity or varsity, based on the skill level of the collective team.
Sophomore Lexi Peterson earned the high female score for the team, tying for seventh place overall (79) and freshman Ben Hanselman scored the top total for the males, tied for 32nd overall (87).
The Panthers tied MACCRAY for 10th place during the Class A conference season with 48 schools and 800 participants.
Head coach Susan Peterson is a member at Metro Gun Club in Blaine and her daughter, Lexi, and friend Serena Fields, were two of the students to help get the program off the ground.
Assistant coach John Hanselman said the team could have added more participants but they already submitted a team roster to the clay target association. “I bet the team will double next year,” he said as five to eight of the 20 students on the team didn’t have a trap shooting background.
In order to help the inexperienced shooters, coaches grouped those with more experience during practice sessions to help raise the overall level across the team. “We worked a lot on accuracy and not necessarily speed,” Hanselman said as they set the targets to shoot straight ahead to develop the proper coordination and confidence to score big points.
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