Alexandria’s Ford Allen-Opp was pretty clear on what the expectations were among shooters from the Alexandria trap team heading into the Class 7A championship on Sunday.

“To win,” Allen-Opp said. “I think we should have a good chance at winning because of how we’ve shot.”

Alexandria went out and lived up to those expectations.

In a sport that has erupted over the last handful of years, this program has established itself as one of the best in the entire Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. They won the Class 7A title at the championship in Alexandria a year ago by shooting a five-person team score of 487 out of a possible 500. On Sunday, they did two better -- shooting a 489 to edge Marshall (488) by one clay and New Prague (487) by two for the championship.

“We had a great year last year. We had a few of the seniors graduate, but we have a great team, probably even a better team, this year actually,” Alexandria coach Scott Green said. “Our future looks really good. We have a lot of young shooters who are doing very well. It’s fun because we have a lot of students who really want to shoot.”

Alexandria’s score of 489 is the second best among the entire field of shooters that had competed through seven of the nine days of the tournament.

In total, the championship in Alexandria was expected to bring in almost 30,000 people from June 10-18 as 8,320 student-athletes from 315 schools compete. Only Blaine, with a team score of 493 that included two individuals with perfect 100’s, had posted a better team score than Alexandria through Sunday with only the Class 8A and 9A teams left to shoot.

Alexandria has all but guaranteed itself a spot at the Minnesota State High School League state tournament on June 21 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. The top 40 teams overall from the championship earn a berth to that one-day event where those programs compete for an overall state title.

“It’s common now to see 480’s, where it used to be 460’s and 470’s were the big scores,” Green said of the strength of the league. “Now, if you want to get down to that top 40, you have to probably shoot the 480-something just so you can shoot in the state tournament.”

Alexandria has kept up with that progression by developing a deep and talented roster with right around 60 total kids competing in the novice, junior varsity and varsity division.

It’s gotten to the point where a lot of the top shooters in the program are disappointed if they are not perfect. Adam Oehlenschlager is one of those. He wasn’t thrilled with a 47 in the morning session on Sunday.

“It’s every time (we’re trying to be perfect),” Oehlenschlager said. “If you miss one, you just get in your head and sometimes you miss another one and you’re down on yourself all day.”

The top shooters can put those misses behind them and move on to the next clay. Oehlenschlager did that in the afternoon, busting 49 out of 50 to finish with a 96 out of 100.

For many programs, that 96 would be high gun. It was not even among the top five for Alexandria.

Allen-Opp and Jeremy Knight both had perfect rounds of 50 in their morning session and each finished with a 98 overall. Tyler Burgess and Nicolas Witt shot 98 also, and 97 was the final score to count toward that team total with Devin Dummer, Erik Knight and Ellie Roers all shooting that number. Derrick Van Overbeke of Marshall was the lone perfect 100 in the Class 7A varsity field as he took home high gun honors.

“There’s a lot of competition and you just want to try to do your best,” Allen-Opp said. “Take your time and take every bird separate. This is probably the best I’ve been shooting this year. I was taking my time, slowing down and changing up a few things.”

Alexandria had a total of 17 students finish with a score in the 90’s. Green said the reason for that success is not surprising. These kids love to shoot and they put in the work to get good at it.

“They want to win,” Green said. “We can teach them everything there is to learn about shooting, but they have to want to shoot. That’s the biggest thing. We’ve got a group of kids here who almost 100 percent want to shoot better every time they’re out there. And they know they’re pretty good. They should because they won their conference easily, and the first night out you could tell they were going to do very well.”

Now the task falls on the coaches to try to take a deserving group of student-athletes and dwindle them down to the five who will shoot at the state tournament on June 21. That’s the task of every program that makes it to the Minneapolis Gun Club.

Having some hard decisions like that as coaches is a good position to be in. It means a program is well established and will likely compete for a title once it gets to the state tournament, something Alexandria certainly has its sights set on after finishing sixth a year ago.

“We have two alternates, but we could have seven, eight alternates down there,” Green said. “We make it known at the very first meeting that it’s everyone’s score that gets that team down there. That team that gets down there is going to win for everybody or lose for everybody.”

CLASS 7A CHAMPIONSHIP - TOP-10 VARSITY TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 489; Marshall - 488; New Prague - 487; Lakeview - 479; Champlin Park - 479; Zimmerman - 474; Sibley East - 473; Benson - 472; White Bear Lake - 472; New York Mills - 471  

ALEXANDRIA SCORES IN THE 90’S - Ford Allen-Opp - 98; Robert Bell - 90; Tyler Burgess - 98; Willard Burgess - 96; Bryce Claassen - 94; Devin Dummer - 97; Parker Jabas - 96; Erik Knight - 97; Jeremy Knight - 98; Adam Oehlenschlager - 96; Nick Olson - 94; Jordan Reese - 90; Ellie Roers - 97; Kallista Roers - 93; Blake Schumacher - 91; Jordon Trenne - 96; Nicolas Witt - 98