The Magic trapshooting team entered this season painfully aware of how important each individual clay target is during a round. After missing last year’s state meet by just one total target, out of five hundred, the Magic put a renewed focus this season on getting that one extra bird every time out.
In a cruel twist of fate, rather than a reward for their focus and determination, they were delivered instead another reminder of just how tight margins are at the 2017 Trap Shooting Championship, held in Alexandria this past week.
For the second straight year, seemingly impossibly, the Magic finished one bird away from advancing to state.
Monti totaled 471 clay targets hit at the meet during windy conditions at Sunday’s shoot. That put them one bird behind Blaine, the third-place team and final state qualifier out of Class 7A.
“I just can’t believe that out of the 500 times that trigger is pulled, that it comes down to just one bird for two straight years,” said Coach Tammy Baloun. “But, it does.”
Monti, which shot half of their round in the morning on Sunday and half in the early afternoon, thought for a long time that it would be enough. The Magic were sitting in second place for a while, and then in third place as the awards ceremony drew near. But right before the awards were announced, a couple more team scores went final and knocked Monti down to fourth-place, one spot shy of a state qualification.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” said Baloun. “We thought we had the potential on the team to win the whole thing up there.”
Monti shot well at the meet, particularly for stretches, but Baloun said they just weren’t able to string it all together.
St. Michael-Albertville finished in first place in Class 7A, totaling 481 clay pigeons. Delano was second with 475, while Blaine hit 472 to edge out Monticello. Last year, Monti hit 470 birds, losing a tiebreaker to Kimball for the final spot at state.
Carter Knudson and Dylan Evans led Monti at the championship shoot on Sunday, with both posting scores of 96. That put them in a tie for sixth-place at the meet. Evans had one of the day’s biggest highlights, running his first 50 targets at the meet.
“That’s pretty impressive,” said Baloun.
Tanner Talbot also stepped up for the Magic, posting a 94 to finish in a tie for 17th.
“That was a great time for him to peak,” said Baloun.
Also scoring for Monticello was Aaron Nyberg with 93 birds and Ryder Beckman with 92 birds. Tanler Pippert also hit 92 birds for the Magic.
Baloun said it was unfortunately just one of those days where Monti’s best shooters weren’t their sharpest.
“All of our top shooters were under their average,” she said.
Baloun said the kids were pretty disappointed with another near miss.
“It’s one of those sports where it comes down to that,” she said. “It’s tough.”
It was, however, still a day with plenty of highlights for the Magic program.
The junior varsity finished fourth at the meet, and the novice team finished eighth. Baloun said that both teams showed dramatic improvement at the meet.
“Our JV and Novice shooters really stepped up,” said Baloun, noting that most of the Novice shooters doubled their season average. “We were just so proud and so amazed.”
It’s also an important development for the future, as Monti will be graduating the biggest senior class in program history.
“It’s really a building block for next year,” Baloun said.
Another individual highlight belonged to Sabatino Johnson, as the senior finished his career with a bang. Johnson, a junior varsity shooter, hit 89 clay pigeons to tie for first-place at the meet.
“He had a phenomenal day,” said Baloun.
And overall, Baloun said it was a positive day, despite the agonizing heartbreak.
If nothing else, it presented an opportunity for the coach to reflect on what an amazing year it has been, in more ways than one.
Monti won a fourth consecutive conference championship this season, and put a program-best five shooters in the top 100, but those aren’t the things that stand out to Baloun the most.
“It was one of the best years for team bonding, and unity, that we’ve ever had,” said Baloun.
The coach said that the large senior group has taken the underclassmen under their wings, and helped them transition into this still relatively new sport. Even as the seniors prepare to head off to new endeavors, Baloun said they’re continuing to mentor and look out for their younger teammates. At the shoot in Alexandria on Sunday, Baloun heard several senior teammates making plans to meet younger shooters out at the range this summer.
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Baloun.
Several of those seniors, and one junior, will shoot one more time representing the Magic this season.
Evans, Knudson, Nyberg, Beckman, and Sam Hedtke will represent Monticello at the state meet this Saturday in Prior Lake after qualifying via the regular season Top-100.
Baloun said the key to Saturday’s shoot will be focus. Monti’s shooters will be surrounded by different kids than they’re used to, which may keep kids from getting into their usual rhythm.
“They have to concentrate on their own birds,” said Baloun. “If they drop one, they gotta let that go.”
More than anything, Baloun expects it to be a fun weekend with a group of kids that has fun every time they toe the line.
“All we can ask for those guys is to go out and to do the best they can,” she said. “This is the state championship. This is the top 100 shooters. All the scores are going to be good. Just enjoy the day.”
The 2017 State Tournament will be held this Saturday, June 24 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. Individual competition is scheduled to begin at approximately 2 p.m., with individual awards scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]