The popularity of high school trapshooting has been spreading like wildfire throughout the state and country over the past few years. This year, the passion for trapshooting took root at Mayer Lutheran High School.
The Claybreakers, as they’re known, were formed in the spring of 2014 by LHS staff members Chris Thole and Gary Loontjer. Thole and Loontjer shoot together on a local men’s trap team and one night got to talking about what it would take to start a team for the students at their school.
“If we could somehow share the fellowship and enjoyment that we had with trap shooting with the kids,” Thole said.
Steps were taken and soon enough, LHS Athletic Director Tim Bierbaum, Executive Director Joel Landskroener, and the Mayer Lutheran School Board were all on board.
In their first season, the Claybreakers had 24 members, ranging in age and experience levels from grades 7-12.
“While we were not sure what to expect in our first year, the level of participation has impressed many,” Thole said.
The sport is open to students, male and female, who have acquired a state firearms safety certificate. At all levels, the rules, regulations, and competition are mixed between the genders.
In a given competition, a shooter shoots five rounds from each of five positions, rotating through those positions twice, for a total 50 shots each week. The clay discs are launched from a trap house at the command of each shooter.
The Claybreakers’ mission is simple: to give students the opportunity to get outdoors, but without interfering with other spring activities.
To avoid conflicting schedules with spring sports and clubs, the Claybreakers arranged to have two different shooting days each week.
On Tuesday nights, those not involved in a spring activity shot at the Watertown Rod & Gun Club, while those with commitments during the week had a Saturday morning option at the Lester Prairie Gun Club.
“I believe that, because of two opportunities to shoot, was also a significant reason for our success,” Thole said.
The Claybreakers are strong believers that academic priorities come before participating in the club and that participation is a privilege and not a right.
Instilling the values that sportsmanship equals leadership, the Claybreakers also aim “to encourage and support positive connections within families and communities for a lifetime.”
At the end of the 2014 season, the Claybreakers found themselves with a fourth place finish in Class A, Conference 9 competition, besting five other conference teams with their total score of 7,185.5 points. Holy Family Catholic in Victoria took home the Conference 9 team title with 10,702.5 points followed by Pillager, Cambridge-Isanti, and Mayer Lutheran.
The conference also included Truman, Crookston, Pine Island, Pierz Healy, and Martin County West-Trimont.
The Claybreakers had their best week in Week 2, posting 1,510.5 points. In Week 3, Monte Monchamp shot a perfect 25/25 single round, and in the following week, Nick Fowler was a near perfect 47 of 50 in a double round.
“Many of our participants also qualified in the Top 25 Male-Female Class A Conference 9 based on each weekly score,” Thole said. “Even in the rain, their effort was incredible.”
After wrapping up the regular season, the Mayer Lutheran team headed up to Alexandria on June 6 for the 2014 Championships. In the team competition, the Claybreakers finished 27th of 33 scoring teams with 410 points.
Monchamp led the charge for LHS with a score of 95 of 100, followed by Zach Thole (83), Fowler (82), Mathew Davis (77), and Tyler Klaustermeier (73), who all competed at the varsity level and made up the team score.
At the junior varsity level, Mason Monchamp scored a 78, followed by Dylan Fisher (78), Sawyer Kubasch (76), and Laura Welk (65). Seven other Claybreakers competed at the Novice level including Jeremiah Elliot, Kastle Kalamaha, Parker Esterberg, Kate Esser, Elli Martin, Amanda Trost, and Lauren Wisch.
Shooters were assigned a competition level based on their average season scores per 25 rounds.
The regular season roster also included Johnny Bones, Austin Carter, Noah Elliot, Austin Latzke, Charlie Menke, Mitchell Thiesfeld, Alex Thorne, and Dani Vetsch.
Coach Thole said the season was a successful one, measured on the progress of individual shooting skills.
“Each of the shooters
increased their individual shooting skills as well as learning to develop a strong sense of individuality, team support, and leadership as a life-long skill set for their community in future years,” he said.
Thole, Loontjer, and the rest of the Claybreakers are already looking forward to next spring and another season of trapshooting.
“We have had many students, and parents, that are anticipating becoming part of the team for next year,” Thole said. “How many activities could a young person be involved in which there were no negative comments or concerns from participants nor parents? We have not heard of any.”
The Claybreakers would like to thank all the donors and area businesses for their support this season including: Watertown Rod and Gun Club, Gary Kubasch, Lester Prairie Sportsman Club, Sheldon Ehrke, Hamburg Hunting and Fishing Club, Brian Biermann, Cabin Fever, Jeff Byrne, McLeod County Pheasants Forever, the MLHS Administration and School Board, as well as Range Officer Bob Johnson and parents.
Trapshooting is currently the fastest growing high school sport in the nation, and the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League supports over 6,100 athletes from 185 teams.
Contact Melissa Marohl at [email protected]