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Rugby High trapshooters set sights on state

By Sue Sitter - | May 8, 2021

Sue Sitter/PCT A Rugby High School trapshooter locks in on an orange clay target at the Rugby Shooting Club.

Rugby High’s trapshooting team has picked up right where they left off after the global COVID pandemic canceled their 2020 season.

At their first official scoring week of the season late in April, the Rugby students each donned ear protection and safety gear before they took their positions on the range at the Rugby Shooting Club, waiting for instructions from their coaches.

“Pull,” they said, training their guns on orange clay targets that rose into the air. All but a few shots shattered the targets.

Trapshooting is more popular than ever among high school sports, according to their coach, Randy Knain.

“We have a lot of kids this year,” Knain said of the North Dakota programs.“There are 1,940 registered in the state. There are 83 or 84 schools.”

The sport has grown in popularity across the USA as well, Knain said, noting the trapshooting program, which began in Minnesota in the early 2000s had grown to include 25 states.

Record keepers for the team would tally their first week of scores that would rank them among more than 80 other teams in the state.

The Rugby High team has 38 members this year, a total that has grown since 2017, when the team was first formed, according to Knain.

Knain and Vince Mattern, who serves as assistant coach, said although scores are recorded and shooters are ranked weekly for five weeks, all members of the teams would be invited to participate in the state tournament in Horace, near Fargo June 18 and 19.

Mattern said scores would be recorded in a different way from past years due to the COVID pandemic.

Shooters participating on the range are already spaced more than six feet apart from each other, but to reduce the number of times they congregate at their shooting club sites, the North Dakota High School Clay Target League allows them to log more than a single week’s total shots at each session.

“They can shoot all their scores in one night if they want,” Mattern said.“They used to have to shoot one score every week. Tonight will be the end of the first week. Some have already shot their second week and third week of scores.”

“Because of COVID, (league officials) changed everything and they can do them all in one night if they want but that score does not get registered until the week they belong in. We save the score and then put it in the week where it belongs,” Mattern explained.

Mattern said the Rugby team consists of students from Rugby and Towner. In past years, youth from the Leeds and Rolette areas had participated with the Rugby team but those communities have since formed their own teams.

Knain said although the students can log scores from their season in one session, “they won’t. They’ll want to get the practice in.”

Mattern said several shooters this year have showed potential to bring home state trophies.

“Carson Mattern is one of them; Blake Haakenson is one of them,” Mattern said.“Monica Yoder is one of them. I haven’t looked at the rest of the scores yet to see where the rest of them are. Those three for sure I’ve seen.”

The Rugby team saw several individual champs in 2018 and 2019, Knain said. The team gave their trophies to Rugby High School for display in their trophy cases in the main hallway.

Knain noted the team hoped to put state champion banners in the school as well, but since the North Dakota High School Activities Association doesn’t recognize the sport, they needed to find a way to honor the team’s accomplishment in a way that fit the association’s guidelines.

Knain said the team’s first champion hit 75 of 75 targets in his 2017 season. “Kyla Radomski, she’s got two of them because she was the top female shooter in 19 and 18, plus she was on the state team in 2019.” Knain added.

Radomski is Knain’s granddaughter.

“One of my younger grandsons is out here earlier today. He’s shot before, but not off a machine. He got a dozen of them,” Knain said. “He’s only in fifth grade, so he’s coming out next year to shoot. You’ve got to be in sixth grade (to participate on the team).”

Knain said interest in the sport remains strong “especially since we lost two seniors last year. They were both from Towner.”

The North Dakota High School Clay Target League calls trapshooting

Blair Kuhnhenn, a top shot on the team, lost out on a chance for a state tournament in 2020. The Towner resident continues to shoot in adult tournaments along with his parents.

“I really thought we were going to get a three-peat at state,” Knain said, referring to Kuhnhenn. “I’m hoping for one this year, that’s why the kids are out there doing their thing.”

The North Dakota High School Clay Target League calls trapshooting “America’s safest sport.”

Knain agreed.

Knain said in the history of the trapshooting program, ‘There’s been over three million rounds fired without a single incident.”

Knain said student shooters are “very well trained.”

“Once they figure it out and get into their second and third year, they get their routine figured out, lock in their concentration and go,” Knain said, adding, “They know what they’ve got to do.”

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