The scores they posted didn’t necessarily provide a perfect ending to the 2017 season, but the place where they posted them did.
Monti sent five trap shooters to the state meet this past weekend to close out the 2017 season, and for four of them, to close out their careers.
The performances ranged from decent to very good, with no one quite reaching their full potential at the state meet, held in Prior Lake on Saturday.
Out of a possible 100, Carter Knudson led Monti with a score of 95, tying for 25th at the meet, while Aaron Nyberg was second high on the team with a 94. Sam Hedtke, a junior and the lone non-senior representing Monti, posted a 92, Ryder Beckman a 91, and Dylan Evans an 88 to round out Monti’s performers at the state meet. A score of 98 would’ve been required to place in the top-12 at the meet.
Coach Tammy Baloun said after the fact that it maybe wasn’t the performances the shooters were hoping for, but that the event as a whole still lived up to the hype.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Baloun. “They were there truly to enjoy the moment, which they earned.”
The biggest highlight on the line came from Knudson. After missing five of his first 13 birds, he settled in and reeled off 87 consecutive birds. That included a perfect 75 for 75 over his final three sets.
Knudson said that a few early misses helped ease the pressure that comes with the high stakes of the state meet.
“After I knew I was out of the top five, I was just chugging along,” he said.
It was the first run of 75 in Knudson’s career.
“I was pretty excited about that,” he said.
Four of Monti’s five shooters were better on their second 50 than their first 50 Saturday.
“Once they got settled in, they did awesome,” said Baloun.
The coach said all the shooters dealt with windy conditions, and some shooters, including Nyberg, even had to be pulled off the line at one point as a storm rolled through.
But on the other end of the spectrum, she said Monti benefited from a good crowd on hand.
“We had lots of family members there, and support for Monticello, which was awesome,” she said.
It was the first time in program history that Monti has qualified five shooters for the individual state meet. A few of the shooters, including Evans, were making their first trip to the meet.
“It was a pretty cool environment,” he said. “It’s something to experience.”
Evans said one of the most difficult aspects of the meet is shooting next to kids you’re unfamiliar with.
“It’s a lot harder to get relaxed, and get in your groove,” he said.
Personally he said he wasn’t thrilled with his overall total, but he did post a 24 in his final round as a high school athlete. And big picture, he said it was just a thrill to be finishing his career at the state meet.
“It was a surreal feeling,” he said. “Being able to say that you’re one of the Top 100 shooters in the state of Minnesota … it makes you feel pretty good about yourself.”
That is what state represented for Monticello, said Baloun. And more so, according to both Baloun and the athletes, the state tournament offered one last chance to celebrate a highlight-filled season, and to reflect on how incredibly the successful the program has been since becoming a school sport just four years ago.
Baloun said that following the tournament, several of the shooters shared stories about how much the trapshooting program has meant to them.
“That’s why we started the program – to get more kids involved,” said Baloun. “Hearing them reflect showed that we’re doing the right thing.”
Knudson called his experience with trapshooting “fantastic.”
“I loved it,” he said, adding it’s the only sport he’s been out for in his high school career. “It gave you something to look forward to every week.”
Evans shared a similar sentiment, and said he can’t believe how far the program has already come in just a few years.
“It’s been pretty cool to see how it’s evolved, and gotten better,” said Evans.
The senior said that a ton of credit for that goes to the coaching staff, and the job they’ve done with the program.
“They’ve made it a blast, it’s been so much fun,” he said. “I’ve looked forward to the start of the season for the last three years.”
And the fun isn’t over. While just one, Hedtke, will return to the program next season, many of the others will continue to shoot together at the club this summer. And they’ll continue to be friends for long after that.
“A bunch of us started off as strangers,” said Knudson. “And now we’re all best friends.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]