Kelsey Bartges didn’t think much of it when she started shooting competitively in eighth grade for the Anoka High School trap and skeet team. It was a natural extension to the bird hunting that she did with her older brother, Kody, and dad, Kurt, to improve her shooting.
But fast forward years later and picking up the skills in the sport at a rapid pace, the senior-to-be has become one of the best high school female shooters in the country.
This last spring season, Bartges was the top female shooter in Minnesota at state, scoring a 95 out of 100. She tied for sixth overall in co-ed, which had more than 10,000 shooters participating. Nationally, she ranks as the third female varsity shooter out of the 15 states that have a state tournament.
Bartges continues to trend upwards in the sport at an accelerated pace. She got redemption from last year’s tough finish.
“Last year in Alexandria I almost won that competition,” she said. “But unfortunately on my last round my action on my gun broke and it cost me seven birds. It was really hard and I went from first to third. It was a tough loss and one of the worst days of my life. But I came back stronger.”
The hope is that improvements keep on coming.
She began shooting when she was 5 years old. Now shooting competitively, Bartges said she “lives and breathes it.”
“I really enjoy the competition,” Bartges said. “It’s 99 percent mental. It’s similar to golf and based on how you perform individually. I think the individuality of it and the competition between one shooter and the next is a great thing about this sport. I also like the people who I’ve met along the way.”
Along the way is her father, Kurt, who is the co-head coach for Anoka along with Todd Brotkowski.
They have watched the program grow as the sport has become increasingly popular in Minnesota. The spring team had 59 shooters and placed second in the conference behind Blaine.
She practices three to four times a week and gets additional training from Kelly Fetzer at the Minnetonka Game and Fish Club.
“He has taken Kelsey under his wing last year and this year,” Kurt Bartges said. “He is the one that has her ear. He’s not paid or anything and has become a friend, but he’s really her shooting coach. He has way more to do with her success than me.”
Being a part of the Anoka program and watching his daughter have success has been special for him. But he’s most impressed with attitude it’s instilled in her.
“It’s been exciting,” Kurt Bartges said. “As a parent, you want to give kids as many opportunities as you can. It’s been exciting for her to have an interest and also to have a couple resources to help her get better. The credit goes to Kelsey, because she’s listening to what they have to say. She has learned and learned at an accelerated rate. Her willingness to learn – and teenagers don’t always listen – and that’s why it’s been so beneficial.”
For Bartges, her goals continue to get bigger as she improves year by year. The goal is to shoot at the college level on scholarship and maybe one day get to the Olympics.
But for right now, her site is set on another successful high school season as a senior and to continue growing the sport.
“I just wish that kids got more involved in it, especially girls,” she said. “I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I was a girl and I was in the top 10 in the state. It can be rare for a girl to do well in a male-dominated sport. It was great to show that it doesn’t matter your gender or your size, that you can do very well. I think that it’s great to see girls out there. Our team has grown a lot. I’d love to see more people do it.”