BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – A group of local students from a wide range of age groups will be traveling to Sparta, Illinois this summer to compete in a national trap shooting contest.
The Clay Crushers, a Fort Madison High School sport shooting club, continues to grow in numbers and success culminating in the July 31 trapshooting tournament at the World Shooting Recreational Complex in Sparta. The club is a shared program so all students in the area are eligible to join the club.
Head Coach Rob Faeth said more and more students are joining the local club and nationally the sport is outpacing a lot of traditional high school ball sports. The current team has a roster that exceeds 20 student-athletes.
According to the WSRC website, trapshooting is a specific form of shotgun clay target shooting and is a game of movement, action and split-second timing. It requires the accuracy and skill to repeatedly aim, fire and break the 108 mm discs which are hurled through the air at a speed of 42mph, simulating the flight path of a bird fleeing a hunter. The shooter is required to shoot at a target after he calls “pull.”
It doesn’t matter in scoring if the shooter hits only a small piece of the target or whether he shatters the target. The target is considered a “dead” or “lost” bird. Shooters stand a minimum of 16 yards and a maximum of 27 yards from the trap houses.
“In 2015 there were 13,000 high school kids shooting trap in the country. In 2017 that number has climbed to 17,000 and it’s projected by 2020 that number will be more than 20,000,” Faeth said.
Faeth’s son, William is a nationally recognized shooter at Midland University in Fremont, Neb. helping lead that school to a national championship and was named an All-American. He received a scholarship his junior year in high school to attend Midland.
“He’s probably one of the top collegiate shooters in the country,” his father said.
Sheldon Edwards has been with Clay Crushers for two years and he said he found it looking for something different to do.
“I was looking for a new sport. The first year I came out just to test it out and I really liked it so I came out for a second year,” he said. “I didn’t get my 25 yet but I’ve been close.”
A 25 is when the shooter hits all 25 birds in a round without missing.
Feath said he took the team to a state meet in late spring where the students shot better than they ever had, just missing bringing home some hardware.
“That’s pretty intensive shooting,” Faeth said. “But I’m very proud of the way the kids performed. Most of them shot better than they ever had before. We had some that hit over 170 out of 200 pulled.”
Faeth said Ed Schroeder, a junior high student, has medaled this year at one of the state meets and other student athletes have come close to medaling.
The Fort Madison School Board recently gave permission for the club to travel to Sparta for the national competition.
Board member Lois DiPrima urged the board to let the club make the trip.
“They did very well at state and we have some really good shooters on that team. I think they have a chance to do something special out there,” she said.
Shea Dinwiddie who has played other sports as well, including football, has been in the club for the past four years and said he’s trying to get better each year and looks forward to the national meet.
“I’m just trying to improve each year. I did hit a 25 this year and the competition at these types of events is much harder.”
Faeth said state and national competitions make the shooters work not just on the physical part of shooting, but the mental aspect as well.
“Sometimes at these events you can have a half mile of shooters lineup and shooting. That’s a lot of distraction and requires some real focus. It challenges them mentally,” Faeth said. “It’s just a whole lot of fun for these kids and their parents, who have also provided great support.”
Dinwiddie said the program used to cost $900 per year per family, but that has been reduced to $300 thanks in large part to sponsorships.
Feath said the club has many, many sponsors that help pay for the equipment and supplies for the students and that helps offset the costs to the parents. The Tri-State Gun Club also offers the practicing facility near Montrose.
The club will participate in another state shoot on July 22 prior to the national competition.