Competing in the National High School Clay Target Championships in Mason, MI, this week from the Britton-Hecla/Langford squad from left to right are Hunter Neiber, Dane Feldhaus, Tynan Bennett, Chad Lang, and Carter Effling.
Team Breaking New Ground
The Britton-Hecla/ Langford High School Trapshooting Team will be part of history this week.
The five-shooter squad will be competing in the first High School Clay Target League National Championship in Mason, MI, Thursday through Sunday.
Seniors Hunter Neiber and Chad Lang, sophomore Dane Feldhaus, and freshman Tynan Bennett and Carter Effling will compete in the event that begins with practice rounds on Thursday. The team qualifying round is set for Friday, individual qualifying on Saturday, and the team and individual championship rounds on Sunday.
Tournament organizers said about 1,400 student-athletes from 280 teams will represent their schools in the inaugural event and over 5,000 spectators are expected. Nationwide, over 26,000 student-athletes representing 800 school-approved teams participated in the league
“We have been working on a national championship ever since we started expanding to other states beyond Minnesota in 2014,” said Jim Sable, founder and president of the USA High School Clay Target League. “Now that we are the largest youth clay target shooting program in the world, it makes sense to host a National Championship where the best athletes in the league can qualify to participate.”
It’s difficult to know how local shooters will stack up against national competition, but Coach Ray Effling is confident that his team can qualify to shoot on Sunday. The top 80 teams and top 400 individuals will advance to the final round.
The qualifying standard for the national tournament was a 19-bird average (out of 25) for the season, and six Britton-Hecla/Langford shooters averaged 20 or above.
“I think we can be one of the top 80 teams and the potential is there for our shooters to be among the top individuals,” said Effling. “All we have to do is have a good day. If we can shoot our average we’ll do alright.”
This is the second year of competition for the local squad, and Effling has been pleased with how the program has progressed. Twenty-five shooters have been members of the team those first two seasons, including three girls. Coaches include Effling, Cal Carlson, Dana Voracek, John Burger, and Dave Price, and Paula Jensen works behind the scene.
The season begins in April with shooting on Sunday and Monday evenings. Team members are still able to compete in other spring sports. The team has been practicing three nights per week to prepare for the national tournament.
“Our number one priority by far is gun safety,” stressed Effling. “Number two is developing the concentration it takes when you step up to the line. It’s just you and the bird and is 90 percent mental. On top of that it’s a lot of fun, a nice outdoor activity, and a lifelong sport.”
Britton-Hecla/Langford team members have been hunting since they were about eight years old, so trapshooting has been a natural extension of that interest.
“Our goal is to make it to Sunday, and shooting 23 consistently will probably do that,” said Feldhaus. “It all comes down to concentration, and it takes some pretty quick thinking to know where to shoot.”
The team concept is also important to the local shooters.
“One nice thing is that is somebody has a bad day, there is someone else there to pick up the slack,” noted Lang. “It is a team sport. I’m really looking forward to seeing how we are going to do at the national meet.”
Feldhaus said the sport is something he can do his entire life.
“You probably can’t play football or basketball until you are 70, but you can shoot that long for sure. It really is a lifetime sport.”