Seventeen-year-old Andrew Oksendahl admits he’s been looking forward to this year’s North Dakota State Trapshooting competition for quite some time.
When you’re part of a junior team that has won four of the last five state titles, and three in a row, it’s hard not to get excited.
“Yeah, it’s fun to compete and see if (we can finish first again),’ Andrew said.
The five-member team will bid for a fourth straight title today, July 18, at the state shoot held in Minot. Each shooter will fire at 200 clay targets, and the total score among all five will determine the winning squad. Along with Andrew, his brother, Matthew Oksendahl; Jake Knain, all of Rugby; Zach Howard, Devils Lake; and Austin Erickson, Graham’s Island, will represent the Rugby Gun Club.
The junior trap team has built a dynasty, winning titles in 1998, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The squad was runner-up in 2005.
“All the credit goes to the kids,’ said Randy Knain, coach. “They’re the ones competing and hitting the targets.”
What’s also impressive about the club’s success at state competitions is that over the years different junior shooters have been part of those squads.
“It’s not just the same kids competing,’ Knain said. “There are a lot of pretty good junior shooters around here.”
So what separates the best from the rest?
Certainly, practice on the shooting range and acquiring good technique. The shooters are at the club shooting twice a week. Yet there is more to it than that, says Jake Knain.
“It’s about 90 percent mental,’ he said. “It’s getting locked in and blocking everything else out.”
Fifteen-year-old Zach Howard agrees it comes down to concentration. Those who can shake off a missed target or two and stay focused stand a better chance of posting good scores.
All of the team members come from families who shoot trap and hunt, and all got an early start in trapshooting.
“My parents shot trap, as did my older sisters,’ Jake said. “I like the feeling of accomplishment when posting a good score and the competition.”
Andrew and Matthew Oksendahl’s parents and older brother shoot trap as well as hunt.
“You learn a lot by watching them shoot and pick up the tricks,’ Andrew said.
The club’s veteran shooters are always willing to give a piece of advice or encouragement to a young shooter. And that goes a long way toward building their confidence.
And confidence has helped turn Rugby’s junior shooters into state champions.
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