Panther Hotshots bring home hardware
Trap shooters from Rugby, Towner and other area high schools swept the top spots in their class last weekend at the North Dakota State Clay Target League Trap Tournament, held just outside of Fargo.
The Rugby Panther Hotshots, a team consisting of students from Rugby and Towner/Granville/Upham high schools ranked in first place in total team points, trap shooting/male and trap shooting/female divisions for class 1A. Rugby High’s Kordell Kraft took the title High Gun Varsity – Male with a perfect score of 100 targets hit in 100 shots, while Rugby High senior Kyla Radomski won High Gun Varsity – Female with 96 hits in 100 shots. Radomski placed second for the team overall.
Three other team members placed in the top five, netting a total of 465 points and landing Rugby in first place among the 35 high schools participating.
Third place went to Blair Kuhnhenn with a score of 94; fourth place went to Blake Haakenson with a score of 88, and fifth place went to Carson Mattern, who shot 87.
The tournament was held June 14-15 in Horace, a town in southeastern North Dakota.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Radomski said of her score. “It’s my best score ever.”
“I just kind of wanted to beat what I did last year, and I did, by one (point),” she said.
Radomski said the team competed in groups, and members were judged based on individual scores.
“We just all shot 50 (targets), and then another group would go, and another group would go, and we’d wait for our turn, and we’d shoot the other 50,” she explained.
Although Radomski graduated high school last month, she said she has plans to continue trap shooting.
“I know NDSU has an intramural shooting club, and that’s where I’m going to be attending college,” she noted, adding she planned to study in the school’s pharmacy program.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” Radomski said of the sport. “I love it. Ever since I started, I haven’t stopped.”
Teammate Carson Mattern agreed with Radomski.
“It’s fun, and this was the second year in a row (for first place), so it was cool,” Carson noted.
Kordell Kraft also described the sport as “fun.” “It’s a good sport to get into,” he said.
Describing his top score last weekend, Kordell said, “I’m actually the first person to shoot 100 straight in the North Dakota High School State Tournament.”
“I worked really hard for this,” Kordell added. “Last year, I got 97 out of 100 at state, and this year I got 100, and it was my first 100 straight that I ever shot.”
When asked if he thought he could match his score in future tournaments, Kordell said, “I hope so. I practice from, basically when the snow leaves, until two weeks into September, and I practice a couple of times a week.”
Kordell said he recommended other high school students consider participating in trap shooting, adding the sport teaches important lessons.
“For one thing, people think guns are scary,” he said. “It teaches you they’re not that scary. It teaches you how to control a gun, safety when shooting guns. Also, it helps if you hunt. You practice shooting for hunting.”
Kordell said he was busy with other high school sports when he wasn’t practicing his shooting skills. “I’m in football and golf, too.”
Kordell’s father, Scott Kraft, is one of the team’s coaches. Vince Mattern also coaches and Randy Knain, Radomski’s grandfather, serves as head coach for the Hotshots.
“It still hasn’t settled in, but that’s pretty dang good,” Scott Kraft said of his son’s performance at the tournament. “I’m pretty proud of him.”
“They’re an awesome bunch of kids,” Scott Kraft said of the team. “They put a lot of hard work in, and they also respect their elders, because it’s the whole elder bunch out here who teach the kids something all the time. They’re such good kids that way. It’s all about that,” he noted.
Scott Kraft said he “absolutely” looks forward to next year. “Most of (the team) will come back. We lose a few, but most are coming back. We’ve got some good shooters coming up.”
Coach Knain described the Hotshots’ tournament finish as “awesome, when you come in with 100 (out of 100 shots) and that’s never been done in the state since it started.”
“It’s been done in other states,” Knain continued, “but the 100 was the first time in North Dakota for a high school.”
Knain said trap shooter Seth Jaeger scored 75 out of 75 shots, and the number of shots scored has “just kept growing and growing.”
Knain said he believed scores of 200 would be possible for state trap shooters as well.
When asked if he planned to coach next year, Knain answered, “absolutely. My granddaughter shot two years back-to-back as state champion. Kyla got top female in the state last year, and she bested herself by two this year.”
“That’s cool,” Knain smiled. “That’s fun. We had a good time at the tournament.”
Knain attributed the team’s success to “a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. And they listen to us old guys once in awhile.”
Coach Mattern also praised the Hotshots. “They’re excellent,” he said. “They work super-hard at it. They work harder than most of the schools in the state do.”
Mattern said although the team’s season was over, trap shooting practice would continue until September.
“Just because it’s over, we won’t quit,” Mattern said. “We keep going all summer long. We keep training them.”
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