Shooting teams become more popular in area schools

Clay target shooting is trending in Minnesota schools, and St. Cloud-area schools want in for 2015.

Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell-St. Stephen, Rocori, Little Falls and Albany are among the area school districts that will field clay target teams for the first time this spring.

School boards in Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Cold Spring voted last month, with little controversy, to authorize the new sport.

The surge in shooting teams in schools also is happening statewide. The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, which allows competitors in grades 6-12, fielded 13 teams in 2010. In 2014, the number was 185.

More than 40 more teams have signed on for 2015, according to the league’s vice president, John Nelson. Nelson says the sport often attracts students who don’t play sports with balls or pucks.

Nelson also touts the league’s sparkling safety record. He says clay target shooting has encountered little resistance in Minnesota as participation continues to boom.

“That perception about kids, guns and schools don’t mix — actually, it does work,” Nelson said. “Whenever anyone has any misconceptions, it’s our job to educate them about the truth.”

Local high schools that already have clay target teams include Becker, Cathedral and Foley.

The sport is co-educational, and officials with Sartell, Sauk Rapids and Rocori say their teams will be open to girls and boys.

Sartell’s team will be for grades 7-12. Sauk Rapids and Rocori will be for grades 9-12.

Area school officials say they launched clay target teams after students voiced interest. John Ross, activities director at Sartell-St. Stephen, said a district survey found nearly 140 students were interested in participating.

Luke Lutterman, activities director at Sauk Rapids-Rice, said that district also surveys its students on activities. Clay target shooting was one of the students’ top choices of new activities to add, Lutterman said.

Lutterman said he expects 30 to 40 students to participate in the team’s inaugural season this spring. Many of them don’t participate in other sports, he said.

“It’s important to us that we have extracurricular options that engage a wide variety of students,” Lutterman said.

The safety question arises naturally with clay target shooting. Its backers say they welcome the topic.

At Rocori High School, firearms are linked to a painful chapter in school history. In 2003, two students were shot and killed on campus by another student who brought a gun to school.

But Rocori Superintendent Scott Staska said there’s no sign the memory of that tragedy roused opposition to a school-sponsored clay target team. Staska said the Rocori school board heard strong support from the school community and voted unanimously to create the team.

In keeping with Minnesota law, participants won’t be allowed to bring firearms onto school premises, Staska said.

Practice and competitions will be at nearby gun clubs. Rocori expects to use the Albany Sportsmen’s Club; Sartell is considering using Del-Tone/Luth Gun Club in St. Cloud.

Staska said practices and competitions will be on weekends, helping preclude a situation where a student might accidentally bring a firearm onto school grounds.

He also notes all participants in the state league must obtain firearm safety certification before competing.

Nelson says safety has been one of the league’s selling points since it began in 2001.

“Parents don’t have to worry about concussions,” he said. “It’s an injury-free sport.

“It’s never had an injury in the history of the league.”


Mark Sommerhauser
7:54 p.m. CST February 17, 2015