It’s the safest high school sport in Minnesota, with not one injury recorded since its inception in 2001. It’s also the fastest-growing sport, with its 341 percent increase in participation since 2010 making the often-cited growth of lacrosse seem like molasses. And it’s coming to Northfield.
Northfield is the newest member of the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL), administrators of far-and-away the state’s most growing sport.
“Day by day I get more excited about it,” Northfield coach Scott Quiring said. “It’s fun and exhilarating.”
After an informational meeting last week drew more than 100 people, assistant coach Alysia Croy said 45 Northfield area students were signed up as of Tuesday.
“The amount of interest right off the bat was amazing,” she said.
According to the MSHSCTL’s website, the 341 percent increase since 2010 came after a monster jump in participation starting in 2008. From 2001-2008, three teams with 30 athletes competed; in 2009 that doubled to six teams and 60 athletes. In 2010 it more than doubled again (13 teams from 15 schools, 340 athletes), and in 2011 jumped to 29 teams from 34 different schools, with 707 athletes. Last year more than 1,700 athletes took part from 57 teams representing 100 schools, and the league’s website said it expects more than 3,000 athletes in 2013.
“It’s great to see [the growth],” Quiring said. “This is just a fantastic way to get people involved.”
Quiring – a long-time hunting enthusiast – was approached to coach the team during its formation stages, and worked with different members in the school district to “get the ball rolling.” As late as last Wednesday Quiring said the chances of a team forming in time for the spring was 70-30 percent against, but talking with district superintendent Chris Richardson got things moving more quickly.
“Dr. Richarson went over and above to get communication going with the appropriate people,” Quiring said. “There are requirements to be sanctioned by the public school system to get into the [clay target] league…and the school district, Dr. Richardson and community education have been just extremely gracious in their assistance.”
Croy said the crunched timeline to register with the league meant the team will be run in coordination this spring with Northfield Community Education, not at the high school varsity level. The biggest concern for Northfield officials was safety, Quiring said.
“They understood that safety was everybody’s top priority,” he said. “People have for decades and decades been shooting trap, and it truly is a safe sport.”
League requirements of a coach for every 10 athletes help that, and Quiring said his professional work as a safety director should aid him in stressing that in the program’s early stages.
“I’m kind of a safety Nazi, for lack of a better term,” he said.
Registration for each participant is $250, which covers insurance through the league, ammunition and clay target costs. Students have to provide their own firearm, and ear and eye protection.
“It’s very in line with other area teams,” Croy said.
Firing out of the gates
Fulfillment of Title IX requirements means Northfield can get going right away this spring when the season starts in early April. Croy said securing a place to shoot out of was a little bit more difficult, and was solved with the Raiders’ schedule of Sunday shoots at the Morristown Gun Club.
Quiring said the team will be split up into different skill groups to start out with, giving less-experienced athletes a chance to learn with slower-moving targets.
“Our whole goal is to make sure kids are hitting birds, because we don’t want that frustration level right away,” he said. “It’s exhilarating when you hit that first clay target…and you know nobody did that but you. It’s a challenge to hit that bird flying through the air. That makes everybody smile.”
Competition comes by way of each team having their shots certified at their own club and getting matched up virtually against opposing teams. Croy said Northfield’s opponents haven’t been determined yet, but in general teams are matched up by size.
For Northfield that size is more than either coach expected when initial questions were raised about the possibility of a local team. Since then students with a wide range of experience have joined, making Northfield the latest stop for a rapidly growing sport.
“The most exciting part is getting to introduce these kids to it,” Quiring said.
Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 4:19 pm
By JORDAN OSTERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org