Princeton H.S. team numbers swell in second season
The “pop” of the shotguns were heard at a consistent pace, and the smell of gunpowder wafted through the spring air when the Princeton High School clay target team opened the competitive season April 21 and 22 at the West Branch Gun Club northwest of town.
This is the second season for Tiger clay target shooters, and head coaches Michelle Cunningham and assistant coach Jeff Hanson have seen an exponential growth in interest for the sport. Last season, there were 16 shooters on the squad, and the numbers ballooned to 46 out this season.
The team shoots Sunday and Tuesday afternoons at the West Branch. The regular season will run for five weeks, set up as a virtual competition matching scores against teams shooting are their home ranges. Conferences are set up, just like other spring sports. The week’s results are posted at 9 p.m. on Saturday nights
The Tigers are hoping to build on the success it saw in its inaugural season.
“At State last year, our varsity was ranked 16th out of over 70 teams, so that was really awesome,” said Coach Cunningham. “We had Matt Hofstad tying for 9th at State and two others that placed well. It was interesting because last year New London-Spicer in our conference was constantly smoking us during the regular season, but we ended up tied with them at State.”
Last year was Hofstad’s first for regular trap shooting. He continued his interest in the sport into the summer.
“I shot in the Amateur Trap Shooting Association all summer, and I’ve been shooting trap in a league out here, too. So I’ve grown to really like the sport a lot,” he said.
An avid waterfowl and deer hunter, he saw the skill benefits pay off last autumn.
“I was definitely shooting better. I shot more geese than anybody else I was with, so…” Hofstad added with a laugh.
In the first week of competition, Hofstad posted the team’s top score of 44, with rounds of 21 and 23. James Hill fired a 42 (23/19), and Preston Burch scored a 41 (21/20). Princeton finished in fourth place in the Class AAA Conference 4 standings behind Eden Prairie, St. Francis and Monticello. Placing fifth and below were Anoka, Glencoe-Silver Lke, Norman County and Belle Plaine.
The increase in numbers does pose a scheduling challenge for the coaches. A competition night involves each shooter to go through two rounds of 25 shots each. To help out with shell costs, the team has received donations and booster funds from community members.
“It’s good to see the sport growing like it is in our town. There’s not a lot of my age group in the sport, so it’s good to see a lot of the younger kids out. And hopefully they will do it throughout their whole lives,” said Hofstad.
Added Coach Cunningham, “It’s been a lot of fun to see the kids growing, just even with a couple of practices. We definitely have seen some improvement. A group of us coaches and Matt went to NRA shooting training because we wanted to make sure that we had the skills to teach. Mark and Sally Stevens from Buffalo, who have an amazing team, passed on some tricks of the trade at the session.”
A championship qualifier will be held in Alexandria the first weekend in June. Then the MSHSL 2014 State Clay Target Tournament takes place June 13-14 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.
2014 Princeton Clay Target team
12TH grade– Austin Berghuis, Logan Conger, Silas Reek, A.J. Wesloh, 11TH– Andrew Aleckson, Kyle Burch, Alex Christensen, James Hill, 10TH– Riley Broding, Lee Clyne, Matt Hofstad, Corey Karst, Michael Murphy, Noah Swanson, Nathan Wetrosky, 9TH– Cole Akemann, Bryce Birkholz, Preston Burch, David Conter, Jacob Crone, Zach Devalk, Scott Furman, Reed Hamers, Peter Hanson, Hunter Luedtke, David Mach, Damon Rademacher, Braeden Radke, Jack Radke, Colter Salmonson, Nathan Sunsdahl, JC Westling, Kameron Wolfe, Kodey Wolfe, 8TH– Hunter Bryant, Ashton Cunningham, Gabrielle Donais, Brandon Hanke, Dylan Leiding, Ben Noard, Grant Simon, Leroy Simon, Hayden Ward, Isaac Wubben, 7TH– Noah Cooper, Alyssa Schmaedeka.