Park Rapids students have a new sport to compete in this spring that fits right in with outdoors sporting traditions of the area.
The Park Rapids High School Trapshooting team formed this spring and completed its second practice Monday with one more practice shoot to go before competition starts April 27.
Trapshooting head coach Phil Stuemke is happy so far with the inaugural team shooting clay targets at the Osage Sportsman’s Club. Unsure what to expect with the first year squad of shooters at different skill levels, Stuemke and the volunteer coaches like the early results.
“Overall I was pleased after our first practice shoot,” Stuemke said. “The kids dug in and worked hard. They’ve been wonderful so far and their parents are very supportive.”
The league is set up with two practice weeks and one reserve week, followed by five competition weeks. Once the practice week scores are submitted the state assigns similar sized teams into leagues for the competition season.
John Schumacher, Park Rapids Area High School Activities Director, said clay target shooting is the fastest growing activity in Minnesota and when the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League gave a presentation at the school the idea of forming a team took off.
For advice in starting a team, Schumacher spoke to activities directors in the area with teams already participating. Other area schools with teams include Wadena, Pequot Lakes, Frazee and Walker.
“The big thing they said to me was to start small, build a good foundation and expand from there,” Schumacher said. “Start small and do it right.”
When Stuemke heard about the idea he notified Schumacher he wanted to be involved and was interested in coaching.
Stuemke is retired after 42 years as a law enforcement officer and brings a lot of competition shooting experience and firearms training to the table.
The team has 13 members, 10 boys and three girls, in grades 9-12. Each team requires a head coach approved by the school’s activities director. Trapshooting is not a Minnesota High School League sanctioned sport, but rather a club sport that falls within the umbrella of Park Rapids Area High School at no cost to the school district.
The students are required to have completed the state firearms safety certification to compete on the trapshooting team. The students also must furnish their own firearms, primarily 12 gauge shotguns. Each student paid a $60 activity fee to participate, with $30 going to the state league and $30 going to help offset the cost of clays and ammunition. The remainder of funds needed comes from fundraisers and various donations.
Stuemke, along with other volunteer coaches and school officials, first met with the interested students and parents to go over the basic rules of competition and established safety as top priority.
“I’m a stickler for safety,” Stuemke said. “We told the students to be aware of safety at all times and no monkey business.”
Along with Stuemke, the team is guided by a number of volunteer coaches who pass along shooting knowledge and experience.
“I’m very impressed with the professionalism of the volunteers and people at Osage Sportsman’s Club,” Schumacher commented. “It’s safety first, fun second and scoring third.”
David Veo, whose son Logan is on the team, is looking forward to helping out. David Veo said he got into trapshooting about 25 years ago while living in Colorado.
“I was really glad to see they put a team together,” David Veo said. “I have a lot of experience and come out to pass on a tip or two to the kids when I see I can help someone.”
Logan Veo, 16, jumped at the chance to compete when he learned Park Rapids was putting together a team.
“I’ve been in to hunting and the outdoors all my life because of my dad. I watched him as a little kid and I was allowed to shoot at 10. I’ve been shooting trap for about five years.”
Logan said he’s having fun participating in a sport he loves and has a goal in mind.
“I want to have a good regular season, shoot a high average and qualify for state.”
After week one of practice the students learned the rules, got past some nerves and familiarized themselves with the competition format, Monday’s second meeting showed improvement in hitting clays.
“It’s night and day,” Stuemke said of the team shooting this week compared to the first practice. “I’m really proud of them.”
Stuemke looks forward to competition and seeing the team improve week to week.
Arianne Warmbold, 15, decided to join the team and experience the sport of trapshooting. “I’ve been hunting quite a few years and this looked like fun. “I decided to give it a shot.” Warmbold said she wants to improve and hopefully letter in trapshooting.
The format has five competitors at time on the shooting line at five pedestals 16 yards from the trap house. The squad leader readies the shooters. “Pull!” Each shooter shoots at five clays at each of the five pedestals for a total of 25. Officials then tally the scores and the head coach submits those scores to the league.
A range safety officer supervises safe shooting activities and range operations.
The students are required to supply their own shotgun. All types of smooth-bore shotguns may be used provided their caliber does not exceed 12 gauge. The students must use factory ammunition and loads cannot contain more than 1-1/8 oz. of shot.
Riley Cannon, Zachary Hagen, Jamie Haggard, Blake Johnson, Isaac Johnson, Karl Just, Alex Kirlin, Gunnar Larson, Colin Mack, Logan Veo, Ean Voigt, Charlie Walsh, Arianne Warmbold
By KEVIN CEDERSTROM