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Trap shooting championship: Alexandria proves itself as a top team in Minnesota

Alexandria's Adam Oehlenschlager takes aim during Sunday's championship shoot. Oehlenschlager shot a 96 out of 100 on Sunday as the Cardinals finished second as a team in the Class 7A competition with a five-person score of 487. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 7
Alexandria's Miranda Danielson shot a 95 out of 100 on Sunday during the championship shoot to finish as the Cardinals' top female shooter. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 7
Alexandria's Jeremy Knight powders a clay during Sunday's Class 7A championship shoot in Alexandria. Knight led the Cardinals this regular season with a 24.5 average out of a possible 25. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 7
Alexandria's Nicolas Witt cracks a smile as he moves to a different station during Sunday's championship shoot. Witt shot a 96 out of 100 and is part of seven Alexandria athletes who finished among the top 100 in the state by average this season. (Eric Morken / Echo Press) 4 / 7
Alexandria's Erik Knight catches his empty shell after powdering a clay during Sunday's shoot at the Alexandria Shooting Park. Knight shot a 98 to help lead the way for the Cardinals that day. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 7
Ford Allen-Opp follows the target out of the house during Sunday's championship shoot in Alexandria. Allen-Opp shot a 97 to help lead the Cardinals to a second place team finish. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)6 / 7
Adam Zimmerman powders a clay target during Sunday's championship shoot. Zimmerman shot a 98 out of 100 to tie for fifth overall, along with teammates CJ Schlosser and Erik Knight. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)7 / 7

Anyone keeping a close eye on the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League championship in Alexandria has noticed plenty of talented shooters in recent days.

There had been seven perfect individual rounds of 100 through Sunday’s Class 7A competition. The league allows some incredible marksmen to showcase their skills, and fans of the shooting sports have not had to look far to see one of the top teams in the entire state all season.

Alexandria came into its championship shoot having already proven that by at least one measure. The Cardinals had seven shooters who finished among the top 100 by season average. That’s from a field of more than 12,000 participants.

Then on Sunday, they went out and backed that up by shooting a team score of 487 out of a possible 500 to take second in the Class 7A competition.

“It’s awesome,” Alexandria’s Adam Oehlenschlager said of all the success this spring. “It’s great coaches. We spend half an hour, 45 minutes in the classroom before we shoot every week. That helped me greatly. I changed my stance and changed a couple things this year and shot way better than I ever have.”

The volunteer coaches who help this program go are finding that kids up and down the lineup are shooting at an incredibly efficient rate. St. Michael-Albertville was the only team to beat the Cardinals on Sunday, and it took shooting a 492 -- best in the nine-day tournament so far -- to do it.

Alexandria’s 487 was the sixth best team score in the entire tournament with two days left to shoot. That all but assures the Cardinals a spot at the state tournament on June 22 at the Minneapolis Gun Club, with the top 40 teams overall from the championship advancing to that shoot.

“It’s a dedicated bunch, and it all comes down to if you’re willing to come out and practice on your own,” Alexandria coach Scott Green said. “Not being forced to practice. Then they shoot better. We’ve been offering opportunities with the coaches to just be out here practicing when they want to, then we have organized practice.”

Alexandria’s top scores on Sunday came from CJ Schlosser, Adam Zimmerman and Erik Knight, as all three finished with a 98 out of 100 to tie for fifth individually. Ford Allen-Opp shot a 97, and a 96 rounded out the team scoring with Jeremy Knight, Riley Nieland, Oehlenschlager and Nicolas Witt all hitting that mark.

Kyle Dupont of St. Michael-Albertville and Shane Sullivan of Mahtomedi won the top overall high gun as both busted a perfect 100. That’s about what it takes to win a competition like this, and Alexandria has a host of athletes who can flirt with perfection on any given day.

“The coaches are a big part of it,” Oehlenschlager said. “We spend so much time learning and they help us execute.”

Oehlenschlager is an example of a student who watched his scores go to new levels this year. He credited having a mandatory classroom setting as a big reason why he was able to finish with a regular-season average of 24.3 out of a possible 25, tying him for the 11th-best mark in the state.  

Alexandria athletes meet up each week and go over information before the students ever shoulder a shotgun. Coaches go over safety instructions, but also dig deeper into the technique of what makes for a successful shooter on the trap range.

“I didn’t expect that,” Oehlenschlager said of his success this year. “I started the season shooting like 45s, 46s. I shot a 46 the first week (of competition). Then it was just like 49, 50, 48, 50. It was just up there every week, and I was just so proud. I couldn’t stop shooting. It’s great. I ran out of shells last week. Otherwise, I would have shot more.”

Green believes this team is seeing about a 25 percent difference in how individuals are doing due to the classroom participation.

“It helps me quite a bit,” Jeremy Knight said. “Before, we would come out and have a safety meeting and then shoot. You just weren’t as prepared.”

Jeremy Knight led the Cardinals with the top average of 24.5 through the regular season. That was fourth best in the state among the more than 12,000 shooters.

“It was my goal to get in the top 10, so it felt pretty nice to get in the top five,” he said.

Students for the Cardinals know they do not always have to be perfect in a meet like the championship shoot because there is depth throughout the lineup. Of Alexandria’s 52 shooters on Sunday, 21 finished with scores in the 90s. Miranda Danielson was the top female shooter at 95 and Kallista Roers was close behind at 93.

Each team that makes it to the state tournament in Prior Lake on June 22 has to pick five students to represent the team at the tournament. For programs like Alexandria, that means some tough decisions await.

“We have 10 shooters who are really good,” Green said. “We have to pick five who we know can participate under the pressure of being down at state. Some will be kind of disappointed. We’ve always talked about this is a team event. We have to win first to get the team down there. Then the coaches, Tom Townsend and myself, we have to decide which five get to go and which 59 don’t. It’s tough. That’s the worst part about coaching.”

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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