A new activity for Cambridge-Isanti high school students this spring is shooting on the clay target team, and the program is locked into a successful first season.
There are 25 members in grades 9-12 signed up for the first C-I clay target team, including three girls, and the activity is offered through C-I Community Ed. The Isanti County chapter of Pheasants Forever was instrumental in bringing the team to fruition, explained PF member and volunteer coach Dan Solbrack.
“Pheasants Forever’s philosophy is all the money that we raise stays local, so we have been putting a portion of our money toward youth activities. We do a sponsored pheasant hunt in the fall where we have 12 youth hunters out,” said Solbrack. “And then we thought, ‘Well, this trap league would be just perfect for our youth money.’ So we used that as seed money to get this going.”
Solbrack attended a convention in February with over 200 clay target coaches. Minnesota is up to 185 teams statewide this spring, with over 5,000 kids shooting trap. The Cambridge-Isanti team shoots under the MSHSCTL, and the MSHSL also has its own clay target auspices and State meet.
“So it looked like it was something that could be done, and we had a short time window. I talked to Chris Johnson, and he was interested in coaching. (Activities Director) Mark Solberg said after a recent survey that there were 155 kids interested in trap. So we said, ‘There’s an interest out there–let’s go for it.”
The Isanti County Sportsman’s Club keeps the “high house” range open for the team Thursday afternoons, and the club is also donating clay pigeons for the rounds. A competition night has the kids shooting two rounds of 25 for league scoring.
“They are very generous, so that’s been great. Everybody I’ve talked to thinks this program is great. And most guys you talk to say, ‘Well, why didn’t they have this when I was in high school?’ laughed Solbrack.
Meets are set up as true team scoring, which takes about 70-75 percent of the individual scores for standings.
“That’s the nice thing about this sport. All the kids participate– there’s no kid sitting on the bench,” said Solbrack. “There’s a good chance their score is going to count toward the team total each week. You’ve just got to be on the ball.”
The season is eight weeks long, with five weeks of competition plus shooting a reserve week of scores. Conferences are set up, with the season champ earning a team trip to the MSHSCTL State meet held the first weekend in June at the Alexandria Shooting Park. Individuals also can advance to that meet.
Chris Johnson, the natural resources, taxidermy and physics teacher at CIHS, is the head coach for the team. He is a long-time member of the IC Sportsman’s Club and a Pheasants Forever member, plus he is a National Archery in the Schools (NASP) representative.
“We put the team together really quickly to meet the deadline this year,” Johnson explained. “Well, I had 15 other kids interested after date. But the 25 was a good amount to start this first season– 40 would have been a little tougher.”
“I love outdoor activities; this is my life. That’s why I do this– unpaid, of course!” continued Johnson. “We have a good crew of volunteers who make this go– lots of help. A couple of our coaches are ‘25’ shooters every week, so it’s cool to have that aspect out here for the kids.”
2014 Cambridge-Isanti Clay Target team: Scott Anderson, Lane Anfinson, Blake Beckstrand, Hunter Bialke, Chandler Biggins, Luke Crawford, Sam Dahlin, Matt Derby, Paul Elmstand, Tim Englund, Devin Graham, Ashley Harding, Nathan Head, Austin Hiljus, Jacob Jaffe, Katelin Katchmark, Kevin Lear, Cody Malikowski, Joshua Miskavige, Luke Nelson, Matt Plemon, Hannah Pynes, Bailey Shlickenmayer, Cory Vidor.