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Thousands take aim at Alex shooting park

Alexandria’s Jake Nienaber (middle) takes aim at a clay target during a practice for the high school shooting team on April 14 as teammate Kim Wilkins (left) watches.

The Alexandria High School trap shooting team is peaking at the right time of the season with its sights set on defending its home park in what is being dubbed as the largest youth trapshooting tournament in the world.

A total of 3,948 youth shooters in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL) are registered to shoot in the 2014 championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park. The five-day event starts this Friday with the Class A competition and runs five days.

Alexandria and the rest of the 17-team field in Class 5A will wrap up the competition next Tuesday. The top three teams in the 5A class will advance to the state tournament at the Minneapolis Gun Club on June 14. A total of 24 teams throughout the five classes will qualify for the state shoot.

“They’ve been practicing extra on their own,” Alexandria coach Scott Green said last Friday of his shooters. “That is really nice to see. A lot of them joined the youth league and they really seem to be excelling. They’re really fired up. It’s fun to see the growth of the sport and see how excited some of these new shooters are.”

Alexandria will have almost its entire roster of 65 shooters competing at the championship. Green said he thought that was the third most participants of any program in the state.

Their expectations are high coming into the shoot this week. As a team, Alexandria is fresh off winning a Class 5A, Conference 2 championship. They beat a host of Twin Cities Area teams to get that, finishing in front of Blaine, Wayzata, Shakopee, Rosemount and New Prague.

The shooters have gotten better with every passing week as the weather has started to cooperate for teams across Minnesota. Jack Allen, Noah Borass, Caleb Petty and captain Tyler Floding all busted 25 straight targets in week five for Alexandria, while Andrew Rentschler powered 50 straight.

“I think some of these shooters have enough experience that the excitement will be there,” Green said of what he expects from his shooters at the championship shoot. “Our team, after looking at other team’s scores, we have a very good team.”

Alexandria has already qualified four shooters for the individual state meet. The top 100 shooters based on season averages per round of 25 clays earn that trip to state on June 14. Rentschler led the team through the regular season with a 23.5 average, good for 20th best in Minnesota. Sam Goetsch (22.9), Austin Yutrzenka (22.7) and Floding (22.7) also qualified for state. Kimberly and Kerri Wilkins were both top-25 among female shooters in the state with a near 21 average.

Brandon-Evansville has three shooters who have already punched their ticket to the state shoot. William Schroeder led that trio with a 22.6 average. Colton Sherman and Christian McGaffey were right behind him at 22.4. The Brandon-Evansville team will shoot on Friday at the championship in Alexandria with the rest of the Class A teams.

A total of 176 Minnesota High Schools will be represented at the local shooting park. The MSHSCTL expects a total of 15,000 attendees including volunteers and spectators over the course of the five days. It’s another testament to the growth of a league that featured just a couple hundred student athletes across the state only five years ago.

Alexandria will be competing in a 5A field of a little fewer than 800 shooters next Tuesday. The home team has 29 athletes competing in the varsity division, 26 at the junior varsity level and eight shooting in the novice division.

Shooting starts at 8:30 a.m. and runs into the evening. The junior varsity and varsity divisions will shoot 100 targets each over the course of two 50-target sessions with a break in between. The top five scores on each program are counted up for the total team score.

Green has high hopes for his group as Alexandria tries to place itself in the top three varsity teams and qualify for state against a loaded field of competitors.

“A lot of these kids are pretty excited and I’m right up there with them,” Green said. “This will be larger than the Minnesota State Shoot that we have here in July, so it will be quite an experience.”


TEAM FINISHES (Total points) – 1. Alexandria – 57,256.5; 2. Blaine – 50,667; 3. Wayzata – 44,693; 4. Shakopee – 40,804.5; 5. Rosemount – 40,244; 6. New Prague – 39,410

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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