Right on target

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012 2:36 PM CDT
Jenna Jahnke launches Ponies’ trap-shooting team
By HANNAH JOHNSON – Stillwater Gazette

Gazette photo by Scott Ertle

Jenna Jahnke practices shooting her clay targets recently at the Hudson Rod, Gun and Archery Club in north Hudson, Wis.

Nothing quite compares to hitting your target. At least, that’s the case for Jenna Jahnke.

The Stillwater Area High School sophomore helped launch a trap shooting team as part of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. Trap shooting is a form of competitive clay pigeon shooting.

The state league officially began in 2008 with just three teams. This year there are 57 teams representing 100 schools and 1,5000 students across the state. This is the first year Stillwater added the sport.

Jahnke pushed for the school to add the sport last year, inspired after she joined a New Richmond, Wis., gun club with her cousin.

“I was pretty good at first, and that always helps to like something if you’re good at it,” Jahnke said.

From there she contacted the MSHSCTL to research how she could get the sport at the high school. After months of working on it with the high school, the sport was finally finalized last fall.

“I just really like shooting,” Jahnke said. “It’s really fun when you see those clays bust when you hit them.”

The Stillwater team just needed to find a coach. That’s when Eric Wahlstrom stepped up. His children were playing basketball at SAHS when he saw a poster promoting the program. Wahlstrom has previous experience sponsoring trap-shooting teams and he teaches hunter gun safety.

Though the sport is in its first year at the high school, 18 students are participating in the program. The sport is open to seventh- to 12th-graders.

“Some of them have shot some clay targets, but not a lot did before this,” Wahlstrom said. ” The kids have been very receptive to the help and are looking for guidance and take that guidance very well. Everyone’s interested in getting better and doing better and so it’s refreshing to work with people that are really excited about what they are doing.”

Jahnke is the only girl on the team, but she doesn’t mind.

“It’s kind of fun being the only girl sometimes,” Jahnke said. “It feels a little weird sometimes, but I can beat most of them (the boys).”

The students don’t compete at high schools. Instead they compete in a “virtual” competition with high schools across the state. They conduct their shooting practices and competitions at a shooting range near their school. The SAHS team meets at the Hudson Rod, Gun and Archery Club in northern Hudson.

The team scoring system is based on three shooting performance categories: top score, top five scores and team average score. Students shoot about 50 targets each a week and roughly 25 targets per practice. If a student shoots an average of 14 to 19 clay targets out of 25 targets then they are considered junior varsity. If a student shoots an average of 19 or more then they are considered varsity, Wahlstrom said.

The teams’ and individuals’ scores are submitted and posted on the league’s website and compared against other schools’ performances to determine the earned points for a team. The season ends with the State Tournament at Alexandria Shooting Park in Alexandria on June 9-12 where individual and team champions will be recognized.

Students pay $225, which includes shells to shoot for 10 weeks and their 18 rounds at Hudson Rod, Gun and Archery Club. It also covers shoot vests. Students must provide their own shotgun.

“This really teaches kids about handling guns and it definitely takes a lot to handle that,” Jahnke said. “It’s about safety and trap shooting so it’s like a real mental game. You’re competing against yourself, so you really need to think a lot about what you’re doing.”