Kids and staff at Monticello High School had been ready for a trapshooting team for a while now.
“I’ve been trying to get it going [for a while],” said Magic captain, Zach Moran, who had plenty of help from people around the school, including now head coach, Tammy Baloun.
Before this school year, the Minnesota State High School League added the Minnesota Clay Target League as a sanctioned MSHSL sport. It was then that the Magic took aim at officially becoming a school sport.
That was the last criteria that they club needed to meet to be sanctioned themselves as an official Magic sport.
This spring, finally, Monticello is firing away.
Quite successfully, too.
In their first year as a school sport, Monticello participants are having fun, teaching, learning and proving that they are going to be a program to be reckoned with.
Each high school team shoots competitively one night each week, and after three official weeks of competition, the Magic are in second place in their Class AAA conference, mere points behind conference leading St. Francis.
And as a team that is just getting started, the Magic seem to believe their best is still in front of them.
“I think pretty much everyone has been improving over the season,” said captain Amber Skelton. “[Everyone is] getting more comfortable with it.”
The third team captain, Michael Dockendorf, agreed.
“It should only get better as we go,” he said.
One of the reasons the captains are so encouraged that improvements will continue is that they benefit from a knowledgeable and extensive coaching staff.
Baloun has a long history of trap shooting, firearm safety and more, and she’s surrounded herself with a number of qualified assistants and helpers.
“Surrounding myself with great coaches and people of knowledge has been a great benefit,” said Baloun.
The kids have seen the same thing, saying that one of the biggest positives of trap shooting becoming a school sport has been the great coaching.
“They help you with what you need to know,” said Skelton. “They help you change and get better.”
If you flip it around, the coaches have benefitted from working with a lot of talented shooters.
The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League ranks the top 30 shooters in each conference. Monticello, which has eight teams in its conference, has seven shooters in the boys top 30 and five in the girls top 30.
Leading the way for the Magic are Hunter Hedtke, who currently tops the conference with a scoring average of 23.17, and Ashley Taylor, the second best female shooter in the conference with an average of 19.
“Both of those shooters are excellent shooters,” said Baloun. “They’ve been shooting for years.”
Luke Swanson (22.67) and Cody Hoffman (22.33) are also in the top ten of the male division, while Mikayla Baloun (17) and Stephanie Kemmetmueller (15.5) both crack the top 10 on the female side.
But the success of the team has relied on much more than just the top shooters. The league uses True Team scoring, adding the top 35 scores (males and females combined) from every team each week. For a team like Monticello, who has 42 shooters, that means a high percentage of their participants are determining the success of their team.
“We’ve had a lot of kids step up and really do an awesome job,” said Baloun. “Some of the kids just needed to get out and get the rust off the barrels.”
After the first week of the season, Monticello was in third place, trailing both St. Francis and Eden Prairie by more than 300 points. But over the next two weeks, the Magic closed the gap on Eden Prairie and then passed them, now holding a 300 point margin over the third place team. Meanwhile, the Magic have leveled off the competition with St. Francis, as their 17,427.5 points are just over 300 points behind the Saints, with two weeks of competition left to play out.
“Our goal is to climb ahead of them and be first in our conference,” said Baloun.
The Magic, being in its first year, have a short track record, but it’s a record that includes them often hitting the mark, whether that be a clay pigeon or a team goal. Now, as they get set to conclude their first season, they’ll set that aim even higher.
Specifically, they will be looking to send both individuals and the team to the MSHSL state shoot in the middle of June. The individuals will be determined by their regular season scoring averages (a handful have a good chance), while the team will determine it’s fate at a June 8 meet in Alexandria.
“It’s our first year but I think we definitely have a team that can compete on that level,” said Baloun.
Monticello’s final regular competitive meet of the season will be held Monday night, beginning at 4 p.m. They compete at the Monticello Sportsmen Club off of Highway 25 just southwest of Monticello. The following week will be a “fun week” for the Magic, where they plan to invite the community out to see what the new sport is all about. Stay tuned to next week’s Monticello Times for more.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com