Jim Sable has watched trap shooting become Minnesota’s fastest-growing high school sport and was looking for a new way to test his shooters. Why not put them up against the local police?
On Tuesday, about half a dozen teens from Wayzata High School’s trap team squared off against Plymouth police officers in a friendly competition that allowed the students to have a positive exchange with the officers — and the police to learn a thing or two from the students.
“Kids don’t interact with police unless it’s under the wrong conditions,” said Sable of Plymouth, who runs the USA High School Clay Target League. “When they take their uniform off, they’re just like everyone else.”
When he heard about another state’s trap shooting team partnering with law enforcement, he said, he thought it would be a good way for the teens to get to know officers, especially given recent criticism of police conduct in cities across the country.
“It’s just another outreach way for us,” Police Chief Mike Goldstein said. “It’s kind of special to be here.”
Both groups said they hope the trap shooting event will become an annual community program, linking two groups that wouldn’t normally come together.
Across Minnesota, trap shooting has surged in popularity and is on pace this year to set a record for participation. About 10,300 students participate in the sport, more than the number of high school boys and girls ice hockey players combined. It’s been the state’s fastest-growing high school activity for eight years in a row, even if it’s “kind of under the radar here,” Sable said.
The only gender-neutral sport in the country, trap shooting’s popularity for both teenage boys and girls has led to packed gun ranges across the metro area such as the Plymouth Gun Club, which Sable runs.
At the gun club Tuesday, students gave officers a crash course in the sport and then paired up with them as they alternated shooting at orange clay targets.
Clay targets were launched in five different directions going 42 miles per hour, challenging the officers who weren’t accustomed to using shotguns on small moving targets.
An officer grimaced after he missed a target and the student shooting next to him split it into pieces.
“It looks like we’re trying to show them up,” Sable said with a smile. He then pointed to two officers chatting with a student, and said: “This is what I was hoping would happen.”
After Orono, Wayzata was the state’s second high school to start a trap shooting team. Now more than 400 schools have teams in Minnesota.
“It’s just a cool sport; it’s different,” said Kerri Mueller, who just graduated as a top trap shooter. “It’s really grown.”