Trapshooters continue conference dominance

Kyle Nathan takes aim at a clay pigeon during Monti's final week of conference trapshooting competition. Nathan is part of a deep senior class that helped lead Monti to a fourth straight conference championship this spring. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)
Kyle Nathan takes aim at a clay pigeon during Monti’s final week of conference trapshooting competition. Nathan is part of a deep senior class that helped lead Monti to a fourth straight conference championship this spring. (Photos by Clay Sawatzke)

Shooters shoot.
And Magic trapshooters continue to shoot very, very well.
For the fourth consecutive year, Monticello has captured a trapshooting conference championship. That puts Monti at a 100 percent success rate in the four years that trapshooting has been an MSHSL sport.
This one may have been the most impressive yet. With 10 more shooters than they had last year, Monti bumped all the way up to Class 7 for this year. No matter, Monti won the opening week and their conference lead was never seriously threatened during the five-week conference season. The Magic finished with 40,303.5 points, while NRHEG finished second with 38,586 points. Monti scored 7,642.5 during the final week of competition last week, the second-best score in the conference to Forest Lake, who finished fourth in the overall standings. Big Lake was third, while Delano, East Grand Forks and Royalton rounded out the conference standings.
“We had some amazing teams in our conference,” said Magic coach Tammy Baloun. “The fact that we were able to pull out the conference championship is huge for us.”
Monti scored a sizzling 8,930 points in the opening week of the season and never looked back. That output was 750 points better than any other single week output for any team in the conference this year.
Baloun said the hot start definitely gave Monti a little breathing room.
“They did a good job of staying on top of it,” she said.
One thing that Baloun felt really helped Monti stay strong week after week was the growth of the younger shooters. A whole host of kids were out for the sport for the first time, and Baloun said their improved was marked.
Tanner Ziwicki is one such shooter. After posting a 6.8 average in week one, Ziwicki hit 22 birds during one of his week five rounds.
“It was amazing to see,” said Baloun. “And that’s just one example.”

Senior Matt Baloun has been one of Monti's top shooters all season long.
Senior Matt Baloun has been one of Monti’s top shooters all season long.

On the other end of the spectrum, Monti has benefited all year from an outstanding group of upperclassmen that have been with the program since the beginning, or close to it.
Monti finished the year with five shooters in the Top 100, giving them each a spot at the state tournament held in Prior Lake in late June. Prior to this year, three was the most shooters Monti had ever placed in the Top 100.
Baloun said having so many top shooters, who had their own goals to worry about on top of team goals, helped keep everyone focused throughout the season.
“That really helped set the mood for the whole team,” she said.
The five shooters to make the Top 100 were: Dylan Evans (24.1 targets per round), Carter Knudson (24.1), Aaron Nyberg (23.9), Ryder Beckman (23.7), and Sam Hedtke (23.6).
“I’m so proud of every one of them,” said Baloun. “They’ve worked so hard, and done so well.”
Knudson said he was very excited to be back in the Top 100, after making it his sophomore year but not last year.
“I definitely wanted to make it again,” he said.
The senior had a tough first week, posting an average of 22.5, but bounced back to post an average around 24 in each of the next three weeks. In week five, Knudson sealed his bid for a spot in the Top 100 by posting consecutive spotless rounds for a perfect 50 on the night. It was his first-ever 50 in a competitive round.
“It was awesome,” he said, about week five. “The whole time I was out at the range I was kind of in disbelief.”
Knudson said that having so many great shooters on the team has definitely helped them push each other week in and week out.
“It puts a little extra competition on top,” he said.
But according to him and Baloun, it is all very friendly and fun competition.
Baloun said that this group has came together exceptionally well, and that they have all sorts of fun every time they’re at the range.
“They’ve really bonded as a group,” she said. “They just truly enjoy being out on the line together.”
The season is far from over for the Magic, who have checked off just one of their major tasks for the season. Monti’s next competition comes June 18, when the Magic travel to Alexandria to compete against the rest of the Class 7 teams for a spot at the June 24th state tournament. Monti has twice qualified for the state tournament, before falling just a single bird short last year. Baloun said it won’t be an easy task to get back this year in a loaded Class 7 field, but Monti certainly has the guns to do it.
The team will have a number of kids shoot at the varsity level at the Alex meet, with the top five making up the team score. While Baloun said a lot of teams ride two to three outstanding shooters and hope a couple more step up, Monti knows they have a whole bevy of options to fill those five scores.
“We’re pretty deep,” she said. “Any one of our top-ten kids can come out and have a phenomenal day.”
Knudson already has his own trip to state lined up through his spot in the Top 100, but he wants to bring the team there as well and is confident they can.
“I’m expecting we can do it,” he said. “Especially with the way the team’s shooting this year.”
Prior to the Alexandria shoot, Monti will host a ‘Fun Night’ at the Monticello Sportsmen Club Monday, June 5. Monti invites district administration, teachers, parents and families out to the range on that night for fun, games, a shooting display by team members and a potluck dinner. It’s all an effort to expand the sport of trapshooting and show off the sport that Monti has been so dominant at for four years running.
“It’s usually a really fun night,” said Baloun. “The kids enjoy it.”

Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]