Last month, eight members of the Cambridge-Isanti Clay Target Shooting team tested themselves against the top high school shooters from around the United States.

And this group of shooters proved they belonged with the best prep shooters this country has to offer, thanks to a strong performance at the 2019 High School Clay Target League National Championships held in Mason, Michigan, July 10-14.

“We had a really good experience at this shoot,” said Loren Larson, one of the Cambridge-Isanti High School team’s coaches. “It was quite an experience meeting shooters and coaches from across the country. I do think our kids enjoyed the trip a great deal.”

The Bluejackets tied for 86th in the team portion of the event, which featured 205 teams from around the country shooting on July 12. C-I broke 451 of 500 clay targets, a number just 31 other teams from Minnesota bettered; still, Larson said the team was disappointed to just miss the cut to advance to the team finals.

“In the team competition, with most [of our shooters] running below average, we only missed the cut to get to the team finals on Sunday by three targets,” he explained. “Being that close really magnified the pain of not moving forward.”

Senior Calub Klontz was red-hot during the team competition, breaking all but one of his 100 targets. Senior Hunter Minke was second on the team with 90 targets hit, while sophomore Brandon Wendberg connected on 89, junior Nate Larson hit 88 and senior Brandon Hammes hit 85.

In the individual competition the next day, Klontz continued his fine shooting by hitting 96 to earn one of 400 spots in the finals. In the individual finals on July 14, the senior connected on 98 and placed 46th out of 1,691 shooters.

Over the three days of the tournament, Klontz hit an impressive 293 of 300 targets.

“That’s right in the mix with the best high school shooters the country has to offer,” Loren Larson said. “I really enjoyed watching him finish his high school shooting career in that manner. Conditions were far from easy, with gusty winds and heat being the theme for most of the shoot.”

Unfortunately, Klontz was the only Cambridge-Isanti individual to advance to the individual finals. Hammes was second on the team in that portion of the competition, hitting 87 targets; Nate Larson was next with 86, followed by junior Riley Puck (81), Minke (79), junior Daniel Joy (70) and Kelly Klontz (63).

“We were really excited to have Hunter Minke back in the mix after his trip to Germany,” Loren Larson said. “It was a bit of a tough finish for a kid who’s very used to putting up big numbers on the range. And I know Brandon had higher hopes than his results, but he took big steps forward as a shooter this year, particularly during the regular season.

“I really hate to think about losing all three of these guys, as their scores and leadership will be tough to replace.”

But Loren Larson said the Bluejackets have the foundation for continued success in clay target shooting.

“It will be good to get Nate Larson, our fourth all-stater, back along with Brandon Wendberg, Riley Puck, and the balance of our underclassmen,” Loren Larson said. “There certainly are big shoes to fill with the seniors we are losing, but I’m excited because we have a solid core of kids returning.”

And while the team may not have reached all of the goals it had set for the competition, the chance to compete on that national stage gave everyone involved one more positive memory with which to savor a highly successful spring season.

“I was really impressed with the way our kids competed, but also with the Cambridge-Isanti families involved,” Loren Larson said. “It was so much fun to watch the parents, grandparents and siblings moving up and down the line of trap houses to support and cheer on the kids that were competing. The camaraderie and encouragement was really a tremendous thing to be a part of at this shoot.”

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