Trap shooting gives Richfield students a new outlet

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 18, 2014 - 1:15 PM

Richfield High School and Academy of Holy Angels are forming a shared team.

Thomas Lehnherr, a 10th-grader at Holy Angels, is gearing up for the new Richfield trap shooting team. He recently competed as part of a winter team at the West End Fishing and Hunting Club in Eagan.

Lauren Schmidt, a 10th-grader at the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield, is involved with her school’s theater productions and the social justice club. Soon, she’ll add trap shooting to the mix.

The age-old sport involves shooting at clay targets that are launched out of small “houses” at the shooting range. Participants shoot for two rounds, each of which includes 25 targets.

Schmidt got interested in trap after her cousin, Hannah, raved about the extracurricular activity. After hearing her take on it, “I thought it would be a good opportunity to make some new friends and learn some new skills,” while enjoying the outdoors, Schmidt said.

This year, Holy Angels and Richfield High School are joining forces to start the trap shooting team, which has a March 1 registration deadline, according to head coach Robert Brotzel, who is the police liaison officer for Richfield High School and a firearms safety instructor for the city’s Police Department.

The West End Hunting and Fishing Club in Eagan will be the team’s home base for practices and competitions, he said.

Richfield is among a growing list of high school teams in the west metro and beyond that are cropping up in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, which got its start in 2000 and incorporated in 2009, according to John Nelson, the league’s vice president.

The coed club sport is becoming so popular at the high school level that it’s already starting to get crowded at the local gun clubs, Brotzel said.

Brotzel, who coached Apple Valley’s Eastview High School team during its inaugural season last year, said he’s has found that the sport appeals even to those who aren’t necessarily athletic.

Although many of the youth expressing an interest in the sport have grown up hunting and fishing, just about anyone can excel at trap. “You need good eye-hand coordination” and a weapon that fits, he said.

Safety comes first

Students supply their own shotguns, while a $279 fee covers the cost of ammunition, shooting time at the range and a Richfield team uniform, he said.

To sign up for the team, students first must get state-certified in firearm safety, according to Brotzel.

Safety is the top priority. Then, “my goal is to make a fun, safe learning environment” for students, he said.

Judging by the league’s track record, he sees the sport as “safer than any other high school sport, with no concussions or broken arms,” he said.

John Nelson, the vice president of the Minnesota State Clay Target High School League, reiterated that point. It’s about learning to use firearms responsibly, he said.

So far, the league hasn’t had any injuries or gun policy violations, he said.

The numbers show that the league fills a unique niche. “We’re reaching an audience that’s never been reached before,” he said.

Part of the draw is that “you don’t have to be the fastest or the biggest. Everyone can shoot trap,” he said, adding that every team member participates. “There are no benchwarmers.”

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