Aiming for improvement, unity
Now in their third full season, the Minneota Clay Target Shooting team is looking to improve on its impressive showing in last year's state championship. “Last year, Minneota competed in the 2A Novice Class at the championship in Alexandria,” said Kent Williams, who takes over for Bill Delaney as head coach.
“They ended with the ranking of fourth out of 25 teams in the Novice Class.” Troy DeSmet, Ken DeBoer and Dale Verschelde will assist Williams with the clay target shooting team this year.
Minneota has 19 competitors signed up for the team this year in grades 6-12.
Practice began on Tuesday, April 3. “Looking at the team members this year, we have a lot of returning athletes and quite a few new athletes, as well,” said Williams.
“We also have a nice mixture of students in grades 6-12.”
"This will be a positive aspect of the team as those that are younger will be able to learn more from the more experienced shooters."
The team will be shooting on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Minneota Sportsman’s Club. They will have two practice weeks beginning April 3, followed by five weeks of competition. Unlike any other sport, clay target shooting teams compete on their own and don't see the competition until the state tournament.
Until then, the shooters compete at their sportsman's club facility or shooting range to shoot targets.
Scores are then tabulated each week and sent to a central tabulator and a running total is compiled. At the end of the season, teams are assigned to various division based on their season totals.
“After our two practice weeks, we then have five weeks of competition,” Williams explained.
“Competitions will all occur at the Sportsman's Club.”
“We use an online scoring system where athletes scores are recorded and then compared to other teams in Minnesota. By the end of the five weeks of competition, student athletes are ranked based on their individual scores and the total team scores, as well.”
In June, the team will travel to Alexandria to compete at the state competition against all the other teams in their own conference size. Teams can be comprised of boys or girls. Minneota will field a young team this season with only three seniors, Noel Swedzinski, Hunter Fier and Kyle Banks.
“We will rely on them to be encouraging examples to the underclassmen,” said Williams.
“For the ladies, Hannah Brewers will be returning. She shot very well at the state tournament last year, receiving second in her class. We will rely on her to be an example to the underclassmen, as well as help us recruit more ladies into this sport.”
Williams feels the more time the students spend at the shooting range, the better the team will be.
“As with any sport, the practice time on the field will be valuable,” he said.
“Students need to shoot two rounds per week to be part of the league. However, we offer other chances for students to shoot more rounds.”
“The more experienced members will also need to be encouraging examples to the younger athletes. Shooting in front of peers can be a mental game. We will be focusing on a positive encouraging atmosphere as a team.”
Organizations have sponsored the clay target shooting team to reduce costs to the competitors and make the sports more accessible to all athletes.
Those organizations include: Southwest Sportsman's Club, Lyon County Pheasants Forever, Friends of the NRA, and the National Wild Turkey Federation.