There were two recurring themes during the trap shooting season, the first-ever at Monticello High School. The success was constant, and remarkable. The weather, the complete opposite.
So it was only fitting that at the last meet of the year, the historic Minnesota State High School League State Meet – the first of it’s kind, not only in Minnesota, but in the country – those two themes collided.
The Magic turned in their most impressive performance of the season, finishing in second place in the entire state, despite battling strong winds and a cold rain all day. Or maybe, because of battling strong winds and a cold rain all day.
Coach Tammy Baloun said the Magic weren’t thrilled with the weather they faced during their regular season Monday night shoots this year, shooting in rain and wind on all but one night, but that it paid dividends on Saturday in Prior Lake.
“That was a huge advantage to us,” said Baloun. “Our kids were used to the rain and the wind.”
They may not have been used to the state meet, but you wouldn’t have known it.
Each one of Monticello’s five shooters brought their “A” game to the meet, helping the Magic rack up 483 clay pigeons hit, out of a possible 500. Buffalo won the all-class meet with a score of 489, while St. Michael-Albertville finished third with 480.
Monticello was led by Hunter Hedtke. He posted a 99 during the team portion of the event, one of just a handful of kids to miss perfection by a shot. The rest of the Magic shooters were close behind. Luke Swanson scored a 98, while Ryder Beckman added a 96. Tyler Talbot and Bailey Wilkinson each hit 95 clay pigeons to round out Monticello’s scoring.
“They all stepped up,” said Baloun, about her shooters. “Considering the conditions, being able to shoot as well as they did was amazing.”
Monticello entered the meet, fresh off of winning the Class AAA division last week, hoping for a top five finish. Coming in, they figured they would need to be for sure over 480 and probably around 485 to crack that top five. Then, the weather happened.
“That threw us a curve,” said Baloun. “We weren’t sure where teams would be.”
The conditions caused several teams to see their scores drop a bit. But not Monticello.
“[Every kid] performed right at or above where we expected them to,” said Baloun. “The guys just kept their heads about them.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of their performance was that the shooters had no safety net. Monticello only got five shooters at the event, and each one had to count their score toward the team total. Just one bad round could’ve torpedoed the team’s chances.
“That just pulled them together more as a team,” said Baloun. “They relied on each other.”
Buffalo, the only team better than Monti on Saturday, would’ve been nearly impossible for the Magic to beat on that day. They got the only 100 of the tournament, from their top shooter, as well as 99’s from three of their other shooters.
“Buffalo is an excellent team,” said Baloun.
And while it felt good to edge out STMA for second place, Baloun said it was also cool to see three local teams on the top of the leaderboard.
“Within 10-15 miles of each other, we’ve got the top three teams in the entire state,” she said.
The Magic also fared well at the individual portion of the tournament, where they were once again led by Hedtke.
Shooting his second round of the day, in worsening conditions, Hedtke posted a score of 98, tying for second place (with four other shooters) amongst all individuals in the state.
“He was spot on,” said Baloun. “Every target he hit was dust.”
Swanson was Monticello’s second best finisher, tying for 15th with a score of 95.
All told, it was a fairy-tale ending to what has certainly been a storybook first season for the Monticello trap team.
“An amazing day,” said Baloun.
She was left feeling like there are more amazing days ahead for the program. Baloun said the positive energy was overwhelming at the state meet, and that she believes the sport, on both a local and a larger scale, will continue to grow. She is also looking forward to the challenge of carrying on a strong tradition that the Magic have already started – a task that will be aided by the return of the majority of Monticello’s top shooters next year.
But despite all the excitement the future holds, both for Monti and the sport in general, she knows this magical first year will be tough to replicate.
“I’m just so proud,” she said. “It’s going to be tough to top a year like this.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com