To the untrained ear they’re not the easiest things to identify.
As you step out of your vehicle though, there’s enough context to go on for a pretty definite guess of what you’re hearing.
That’s because you’re at the Morristown Gun Club, and as you walk up to the trap shooting range it becomes increasingly obvious that the sounds you’re hearing are the barks of 12- and 20-guage shotguns. More specifically, shotguns in the hands of Northfield’s trap team, a new group on the local sporting scene this spring.
Coming together about two weeks before the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League season began, 42 Northfield high school and middle school students have become teammates as part of the state’s fastest-growing sport.
“It’s pretty different,” seventh-grader Emily Rinas said. “I don’t play a lot of other sports, so this is pretty nice. A lot of my friends are out here and they’re all very encouraging.”
That fits right in with the overall encouraging experience of this spring, which was an athletic experiment for Northfield as much as anything else. A group of parents and students joined relatively quickly to get a team together without knowing much about the sport’s structure, but now that the season is at its tail end the verdict for Northfield is in.
“It’s been a fantastic time and I would absolutely label it a success,” coach Scott Quiring said. “I’ve asked kids here a lot in the recent weeks if they’re having fun, and everyone’s saying yes.”
The evidence of the new team’s success has been apparent on many levels: growth (there are 15 students on a waiting list to get on the team); improvement (“One gal we had that was struggling on the season’s front end, and just last week she shot a 12 [out of 25]. She was so pumped,” Quiring said); safety (there have been zero injuries this season and increasing awareness and education on proper safety, Quiring said); and students just plain enjoying themselves (“It’s been a lot of fun,” freshman Matt Gordon said. “I will definitely do this again next year.”)
Part of the logistical requirements when a group of people came together in Northfield was figuring out where to bring the students to shoot. That’s how Morristown Gun Club entered into the equation, offering to host Northfield as well as three other teams this spring.
“They really have stepped up to the plate, and we really appreciate it,” assistant coach Brian Bristol said. “There was some doubt early in the season whether they would be able to host four teams. State-wide that is the limiting factor for the growth of these clay target programs…is a safe place to do it.”
Morristown Gun Club made sure that wasn’t the case for Northfield, going as far as putting in an additional trap machine at the cost of $8,000 to speed up shooting days, Quiring said.
“They’ve gone above and beyond to get these kids involved,” he added.
So it is that Northfield’s shooters arrived throughout the day every Sunday weather allowed this spring, rotating through stations and getting to know their new athletic outlet. The condensed schedule leading up to the season made it difficult to let everyone know about the option of joining, Quiring said, but word is spreading.
“There have been kids involved now talking with their friends who didn’t even know about it,” he said. “I’m fairly confident we’ll have most of the kids signing up again, and then some.”
Breaking the targets
Despite being new, Northfield’s team has jumped right into the competitive aspect of trap shooting. Teams are placed in one of 15 conferences based on their team size (Northfield is in conference 12 with 42 members) and weekly scores are matched up with opponents in each conference.
Through four of the five competitive shooting weeks (there are also practice weeks) Northfield was fifth out of seven teams, and in week three took second place. Northfield manager Alysia Croy said scores are weighted on three parts: the top scorer from each team (based on two rounds of 25 shots), the top half of the team and the total team score.
Shooters line up parallel five at a time, 16 yards behind the trap house, and go down the line firing one at a time for five shots each as targets are released. They then rotate to the next spot in line and fire five shots there until each person has shot at 25 targets.
“You’re really hoping that everyone in your five, you clean out the round,” Gordon said. “It’s more of a team sport than it feels like, because you’ve got to encourage everyone.”
Northfield has had plenty of reasons for teammates to encourage one another: there have been multiple perfect rounds of 25; seven varsity athletes (Jarrett Croy, Max Olson, Luke Schewe, Lane Dornbusch, Andrew Nielsen, Cole Dornbusch and Ryan Buck) qualified for the state tournament June 7, as well as 10 junior varsity and nine novice athletes that made their level’s state tournament; and three athletes (Jarrett Croy, Katie Brust and Lauryn Sellner) were named top-10 athletes for conference 12.
“Quite a few people have improved a lot,” Gordon said.
As can be expected with a sport centering on using firearms, safety started — and has remained — atop the team’s priority list. Huge portions of early practices were dedicated completely to making sure every student had mastered the safety of the entire process, Quiring said.
“That’s been a real welcome sight: the kids have really gravitated to the safety factor,” he said.
That comes with many steps, from glasses and earplugs to proper loading techniques on the line. Northfield is far from unique in its emphasis on safety: the MSHSCTL has zero reported injuries since 2008.
“It’s really been a growth experience for all the coaches and the kids,” Quiring said.
Behind safety, Quiring said having fun was paramount to this year’s initial experience for students.
“That is the satisfaction of being out here,” he said. “I’m not the most competitive guy out here. My goal is getting these kids introduced to the sport and enjoying it…and that’s what it’s all about.”
By that measure Northfield seems well on its way to having another successful program in place. Quiring said he and other coaches have been working with Northfield activities director Tom Graupmann on making trap shooting a lettering varsity sport, which would officially recognize athletes for their participation.
“It’s been nothing but a real positive experience for everyone involved,” Quiring said.
That appears to be the kind of positive review that will green light the sport’s continuation and growth into next year, when more students are expected to join.
“I would definitely do this again next year,” Rinas said. “I could do this for the rest of my life.”
Northfield News: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:00 am | Updated: 2:19 am, Sat May 25, 2013.
By JORDAN OSTERMAN firstname.lastname@example.org