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Trap championship: B-E, Ashby compete among the 3A field

Brandon-Evansville freshman Riley Bitzan gets ready for his shot during Wednesday morning's Class 3A championship shoot at the Alexandria Shooting Park. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 8
Brandon-Evansville's Gaven Jacobson unloads his shell after a shot during the Class 3A championship in Alexandria on Wednesday morning. Jacobson shot an 88 to help account for a team score of 452 for Brandon-Evansville. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 8
Brandon-Evansville's Riley Thompson throws his head back after a miss during Wednesday's Class 3A championship shoot. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 8
Anakin Bosek takes aim during Wednesday's Class 3A shoot. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 8
Katrina Buchholz shoots during Wednesday's morning session of the Class 3A state championship. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 8
Brandon-Evansville's Alena Shores takes aim during Wednesday's Class 3A shoot. Shores of the Class 3A, Conference 2 top female shooter by average (21.3) this regular season. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)6 / 8
Brandon-Evansville senior Chris Vinson ejects a shell after powdering a clay during Wednesday morning's Class 3A tournament in Alexandria. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)7 / 8
Carson Anderson moves stations during Wednesday's Class 3A state shoot. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)8 / 8

Those who take part in the shooting sports will sometimes find more comfort in it being a solitary passion.

Whether it’s shooting a bow in the backyard alone or a shotgun on the trap range with a few friends, there often isn’t a lot of eyes around to add much pressure. That changes at the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League championship in Alexandria.

Through nine days from June 10-18, the tournament is expected to bring in more than 30,000 people between students, parents, coaches and spectators.

“I was just nervous right away,” Brandon-Evansville senior Chris Vinson said after his morning session of 50 clays on Wednesday. “I got up there and first three posts that I shot at, I was just really nervous and shaking. After that, I was fine and went out and shot a 24 my second round. It wasn’t as bad then.”

Vinson led the Brandon-Evansville trap team through the regular season with a 23.4 average out of a possible round of 25. He settled in during his second round on Wednesday morning and shot a 44 during that first session as Class 3A teams in the state took their turn at the tournament. Vinson finished up with an 82 out of 100 after the afternoon session.

“I just kind of said, ‘It is what it is. You’re going to shoot whatever you’re going to shoot. Just go out there and shoot,” Vinson said after his morning session. “There’s no sense in being nervous about it.”

Brandon-Evansville has just over 30 kids in the program this spring and 28 of them shot on Wednesday between the novice, junior varsity and varsity divisions.

The top-five scores from varsity shooters add up to the total team score, and Brandon-Evansville shot a 452 out of a possible 500 to finish 12th in the 3A field.

Trevor Peterson led the way with a 93, while Andrew Perrin joined Riley Bitzan in shooting a 91. Spencer Olson shot an 89 and Gaven Jacobson rounded out the scoring with an 88.

Ashby finished 17th on varsity with a 449. Benton Stadsvold shot a 95 to lead the way, while Ethan Johnsrud added a 91. Alden-Conger High School won the 3A team title with a 481, and Jake Mader of Annandale won the overall high gun with a 98.

Bitzan, a freshman for B-E, is a young shooter on this team who showed promise this season. He was second for B-E with a 22.7 average in the regular season, and he put aside some early nerves to shoot a 23 in his second round of the morning. He followed it up with a 24 in the first round of the afternoon.

“Usually we just try to have fun and that’s when we shoot our best, but you get a little nervous when there’s people out here and you’re shooting for something bigger,” Bitzan said.

Brandon-Evansville has a lot of young shooters in the program right now. They lost experienced guys like Colton Sherman and Michael Schroeder from a year ago, both of which had finished among the top 100 shooters in the state in year’s past.

Those losses offered an opportunity for others to step up and lead the way for the program.

“From my class, Hunter Koep and Braydon Englund, they both averaged right along with me throughout our years,” Bitzan said. “They’ll do really well. The young kids like Ben Seifert and Cole Henneman both averaged varsity in their seventh-grade year. I’ve never seen that, so that’s really important coming up.”

The championship is a team qualifying event where the top 40 varsity team scores throughout the entire nine days earn the right to shoot at the Minnesota State High School League state tournament on June 21 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. It is there that an overall team and individual state champion will be crowned.

Brandon-Evansville has competed at that state tournament in the past, but it’s not something the team was really thinking of on Wednesday. After brushing off a few early jitters, this group was ready to just enjoy the day in a fun atmosphere.

“Just go out there and shoot your best and stay focused when you’re out on the line,” Vinson said. “All you can really ask for is that you shoot your best.”

CLASS 3A TOP-10 TEAM SCORES - Alden-Conger - 481; Annandale - 480; Wayzata - 477; Richfield-Academy of Holy Angels - 465; Walker-Hackensack-Akeley - 460; Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton - 457; Plainview-Elgin-Millville - 456; Frazee-Vergas - 455; Proctor - 454; Rogers - 453; Brandon-Evansville - 452; Ashby - 17th, 449

B-E TOP-FIVE VARSITY FINISHERS - Trevor Peterson - 93; Riley Bitzan - 91; Andrew Perrin - 91; Spencer Olson - 89; Gaven Jacobson - 88

ASHBY TOP FINISHERS - Benton Stadsvold - 95; Ethan Johnsrud - 91; Samuel Sorenson - 89; Samuel Heeter - 88; Benjamin Ludwig - 86; Dakota Ecker - 86; Zachary Fagre - 86; Carter Spangler (Novice) - 88

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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