The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League has continued its upward climb in popularity heading into the 2015 season, and another local program has joined the fold.
Osakis is now one of more than 235 teams from across the state that will provide trapshooting as a sport for their students. That’s up from 185 teams and the 6,100 athletes that competed in 2014 as this continues to be the fastest growing sport in Minnesota.
“It’s mainly for the youth. Give them a sport that they can still be doing 50 years from now,” Osakis coach Brian Griesert said of forming the new program. “It’s one of the few sports like golf, archery, trap shooting – you can do that for years.”
A group of volunteers figured it was simply time for Osakis to join in a sport that so many surrounding communities already had. Alexandria, Long Prairie, Brandon-Evansville, Parkers Prairie and Minnewaska are a handful of schools that currently compete in the clay target league.
Osakis has 14 students in grades 7-12 on this year’s team – 13 boys and one girl. There had been talk of as many as 28 kids expressing interest, but with five volunteer coaches, the lower number allows more one-to-one interaction with the shooters.
“That [number] feels pretty decent,” Griesert said. “It kind of gets our feet wet this first year. I couldn’t give kids an exact dollar amount on what it was going to cost. If there was no fundraising, no donations, you’re talking $360 per student, but right now I think we’re going to be able to keep that right in the $100 range.”
Communities have seemed to step up to help programs like this all around the state, and Osakis has been no different. Nine different businesses or organizations had already provided cash donations. The General Store in Osakis is also donating vests and helping with the cost of ammunition.
Volunteer coach Dave Spartz said the support has been outstanding, not only through donations but with help from other coaches in surrounding towns.
“That’s one thing that’s kind of different about this,” Spartz said. “All of the coaches are there to help you get going. Some of the other programs, it’s, ‘We’re not telling you anything when we’re playing you.’ Here it’s, ‘How can we help you?’ That’s a good thing.”
Osakis already has an archery team through the National Archery in the Schools program. Many of the same kids who enjoy competing in that were eager to trade in their bow for a shotgun for similar reasons.
“I was totally excited,” Osakis sophomore Eric Griesert said. “I just love the sport so much. I don’t play any other sport other than archery in high school. I’ll keep doing this throughout my whole life. It’s pretty fun to be able to compare your scores to other people.”
The Grieserts have made this a family sport. Brian gets a chance to coach three sons with Darren, a senior, and Austyn, a freshman, joining Eric on the team. All three
have plenty of hunting and clay-shooting experience as they get set to see how they stack up against other shooters in Minnesota.
“I think for now we should just focus on being pretty good at shooting,” Austyn said of expectations for the team in year one. “From that, eventually expand on the numbers.”
Senior Jesse Sorensen is another athlete that comes into this first year with plenty of shotgunning experience.
He plays football and competes in archery and was equally as excited to join the clay target team when the opportunity presented itself. Sorensen is confident he and some others will fare just fine once the competition begins the week of April 26.
“I think as the season goes on, I’ll see my scores go up,” Sorensen said. “I think once we get to the state competition that me and my fellow classmate, Darren, we should be able to shoot really well in the state; hopefully place high. I expect big things out of us and also some of our younger classmates, too. I think we should be just fine.”
Coaches are quick to emphasize that there is no pressure to shoot great scores.
For many students in Minnesota, the clay target league is their first experience in the shooting sports. Kids must have a firearms safety certificate to compete, and the league prides itself on being one of the safest sports out there for athletes.
Osakis coaches have three primary focus areas heading into their first season with safety being at the top of that list. After that, it’s to have fun before seeing if their scores can increase.
“Basically our main goal is safety and that’s the goal of the league,” Spartz said. “The only time these kids will ever hear a voice raised is if they do something that we don’t think is safe. We’ll explain what’s going on and expect the behavior to change wherever necessary. But with these kids, I don’t think we’re going to have any problems.”
OSAKIS TRAPSHOOTING FUNDRAISER
The Osakis clay target shooting team will host a spaghetti supper with garlic bread as a fundraiser for the program.
The spaghetti supper will be on Thursday, March 26, from 5-8 p.m. at the Corral Saloon and Eatery in Nelson. There will be a freewill donation and a silent auction.
The newly-formed Osakis team practices at the Alexandria Shooting Park on Sunday afternoons throughout the season.
By Eric Morken