Right on target: Potosi students team up to shoot

Potosi-HS-LogoSchool district partners with sportsmen’s club, and Potosi is 1 of 6 teams in spring league.

Potosi School District students have another sport they now can letter in – trapshooting.

The district’s Board of Education recently approved the creation of a co-ed clay target shooting team for the district’s students. It’s a collaborative partnership between the school district and the Potosi-based Southwest Wisconsin Sportsmen’s Club. The team competes in the fledgling Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League.

“This team is important to me because it offers more kids the opportunity to join the trap club and keep the traditions going,” said Liza Johnson, 16, a junior who grew up trapshooting. “I’m happy to see new shooters. The team will allow kids to learn to shoot correctly and yet have a good time.”

Potosi is one of six teams in its league this spring, but the sport has strong support in at least one neighboring state.

The Minnesota High School Clay Target League has grown from three teams and 30 athletes in 2008 to 185 teams and 6,100 athletes this spring. Wisconsin does not have an equivalent league of that size.

Iowa has a similar program for middle- and high-school students. Administered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa High School and Scholastic Clay Target Program, established in 2006, has 105 teams, including one in Maquoketa. The league competes in April and May, with championships in June.

According to Amy Hawkins, activities and athletic director for Dubuque Community School District, there have been no inquiries about adding the sport as an extracurricular activity.

“We’re always open to people wanting new things,” she said. “If it was brought to us, it would be treated like a club after school hours.”

Potosi officials are sold on the new sport.

There’s no cost to the school district. The team is self-funded through donations, grants and student registration fees. Insurance for the students and coaches is provided by the league.

There’s no travel. Parents transport their athlete to the sportsmen’s club firearm range, where all the shooting takes place. It’s a “virtual” league, where scores are posted on the Internet and compared online against other schools. The coaches record all the scores.

“What I like about trapshooting is it’s all me and no one else,” said Kelly Bode, 18, the team’s lone senior, who has been shooting for four years. “It’s my hobby, and I love it.”

The sport is open to sixth- through 12th-grade students who successfully complete a hunter education program. Ron Saari, Potosi district administrator, said students are able to letter in the sport just like athletes can for any other sport. The league, like any other school sport, requires participants and their parents to agree to sportsmanship expectations that include behavior, keeping up grades and safety, he added.

Don and Nancy Johnson coach the team, with assistance from several sportsmen’s club members.

“I’ve been shooting trap longer than I can remember,” Don Johnson said. “We were very happy when the school board made its decision. The kids were excited. They want to shoot. This is a way to promote trapshooting and get younger people involved, off the couch and away from the video games.”

The Johnsons have two grandchildren on the team.

“This is an equal-opportunity activity,” Nancy Johnson said. “Not every kid has the physical ability or desire to participate in baseball and football or any other school sport. Every participant on our team shoots their targets. There are no benchwarmers in trapshooting.”

The spring league began in early April and ends in June with the state tournament, where all participants are invited to compete. Potosi also will compete in a fall league.

The decision was easy, according to Potosi School Board President Curt McMahon.

“With us being a small school, (the opportunity to) add an additional, co-educational, extracurricular activity that’s growing in popularity in Wisconsin at no cost to the school was a no-brainer,” he said.

Saari echoed Nancy Johnson.

“What I like about this opportunity is that it provides a niche for students who may not want to participate in our current co-curricular offerings,” he said. “We have a lot of students who enjoy hunting and the outdoors. This sport gives them an opportunity to participate in shooting, to compete, and hopefully help them become more engaged in school.”

The Wisconsin High School Clay Target League is an offshoot of the USA High School Clay Target League. In its first year, it has six teams and 100 students.

“You don’t need to be able to bench press 200 pounds or run the 40-yard dash in five seconds,” said Cory Brathol, the state director, of Hudson. “This provides opportunities for a lot of kids. Boys, girls and physically handicapped athletes all compete side by side using the same rules.”

Telegraph Herald
CRAIG D. REBER – staff writer
Publication Date: April 18, 2014