The Princeton Clay Target League squad, made up of students in grades 6-12, were well-focussed for last weekend’s State meet which wrapped up a season of good shooting. The Tigers placed 16th out of 70-plus teams at the gathering in Alexandria.
“We compete against teams around the state based on the size of the team. We were placed in the 4A conference, competing against New London-Spicer, Tartan, Detroit Lakes, Holy Family Catholic, Martin County West-Trimont, Crookston, and Ashby,” explained Tiger Coach Michelle Cunningham. “We placed fifth in our conference, 1/2 point behind Holy Family. New London-Spicer was the conference champ.”
The 2013 Princeton team consisted of juniors A.J. Wesloh, Austin Berghuis, Silas Reek; sophomore Eric Lynas; freshmen Riley Broding, Matt Hofstad, Noah Swanson; eighth graders Hunter Backlund, Hunter Luedtke, Tim Bialka, Bryce Birkholz, Preston Burch, Jake Carlson, Peter Hanson; seventh grader Gabrielle Donais; and sixth grader Matt Behrens.
Hofstad was the team’s top varsity shooter at State with 93 out of 100, tying for ninth place. Bialka shot 92/100, followed by Berghuis 90/100, Wesloh 89/100, Broding 89/100, and Reek 88/100.
The JV shooters were led by Luedkte (77/100), Birkholz (75/100), Hanson (75/100) and Backlund (67/100).
“We are very proud of our Tigers. The athletes shot well and were very professional,” said Coach Cunningham.
St. Michael-Albertville won the varsity team title at State, and Lakeville South was tops in the JV standings.
Growth of the sport
According to Cunningham, Minnesota Clay Target League had three teams and 30 athletes from the years 2001-2008. In 2012, 57 teams, 100 schools and 1,715 athletes competed. This year, there were 115 teams, 215 schools and 3,400 athletes– making it the fastest growing sport in the state. Each athlete shoots two rounds of 25 weekly. Then the scores are entered into the Minnesota Clay Target League’s team management system.
Shooters are situated into three levels: varsity (averaging 20-25), JV (15-19.9) and novice (0-14.9). The league honors members who shoot a perfect 25 with a patch. Throughout the season, Wesloh shot two separate 25 perfect rounds.
Princeton shoots at its home gun range, the West Branch Gun Club, on appointed days. The regular season consists of two practice weeks, one reserve week, and five competition weeks. The home season ended with a fun BBQ out at the club, along with some shooting games.