Another plus is that teams compete by size and in a “virtual competition,” not according to their geography, he said.
They shoot at their local gun clubs, so there’s no travel. Scores get tallied online.
Also, many schools offer lettering opportunities and yearbook recognition to trap athletes, he said.
Getting youth involved
The league’s program has been a model for other states looking to get into competitive high school trap shooting, Nelson said.
He credits league founder Jim Sable, an avid trap shooter and a regular at the Plymouth Gun Club, for its progress.
Once he hit retirement age, Sable realized he was one of the younger ones at the gun club, Nelson said.
Seeing that the sport’s future “wasn’t very bright,” Sable wanted to bring a new generation into the fold, he said. That led him to start a youth mentoring program in the Orono school district in 2001.
From there, the league began taking shape, and it became incorporated in 2009, he said. Since then, the volunteer-driven league has drawn thousands of students, up from its original group of 30.
It’s gone from just a few teams in its first year to 170 in 2014, according to Nelson.
Also, the league expects to see as many as 5,000 students to its championship in Alexandria in June, which Nelson claims will make it the largest trap shooting event of its type in the world.
Later in June, the top 100 athletes will go on to a separate competition in Prior Lake that’s being hosted by the State High School League. That collaboration represents a first in the state and in the country, he said.
A family tradition
Richfield senior Nate Wannebo is eager for trap season to start.
Wannebo started accompanying his dad, Tom, a master shooter, to the shooting range as a 5-year-old.
Trap shooting has been a good way for him and his dad to spend quality time together. They usually go shooting on Sundays after getting breakfast at the gun club, he said.
His dad, who is in a wheelchair, uses a custom-made stool to stake out a spot on the range, either as a participant or an observer.
At first, Wannebo wasn’t a big fan of the sport. But as he started doing it more in recent years, “It clicked. I understand how it works. It’s fun now and I’m competitive,” he said. He and his dad have both racked up numerous prestigious shooting awards. They’ll help out the team as assistant coaches.