The Forest Lake clay target team took aim at the world’s largest sport shoot, the Minnesota Clay Target League championship in Alexandria June 10-18, and by virtue of a strong showing there also moved on to the MSHSL title tournament in Prior Lake June 21.
Despite the short history of organized high school clay target shooting in Minnesota, the yearly state shoot at the Alexandria Shooting Park has already become legendary, having been recognized as the largest sport shooting event in the world. It brings together more than 10,000 competitors each year over the course of nine days of shooting.
Each day of the state shoot is dedicated to one of the nine classes into which the Minnesota High School Clay Target League divides it participating teams. Unlike most sports, where class determinations are made according to school size, clay target uses team roster size. Forest Lake, with more than 70 athletes signed up for the 2019 season, slotted into Class 8A, the second largest, and thus competed at state on June 17.
In the varsity competition, the Rangers finished fifth out of 15 teams in their class with a five-shooter total of 476 targets hit out of 500. The competition among the top teams was a tight one, with Delano claiming the class trophy with 481 ahead of Prior Lake (480), Buffalo (479) and Foley (477). Finishing behind the Rangers were New London-Spicer (474), Eastview (463), Stillwater (462), Lakeville North (459), ROCORI (456), Norwood Young America (452), Sartell (452), Hutchinson (449), Chisago Lakes (441) and Byron (437).
The Ranger varsity lineup was led by Ryan Blumenthal, who hit 97 of 100 targets to finish in a tie for fifth in Class 8A. Boys and girls were ranked separately for the purposes of individual competition, but combined in the race for the team title — any shooter, boy or girl, who featured among his or her team’s top five contributed to the score.
Four shooters tied for the top boys and overall spot at 98: Tyler Kingery (Prior Lake), Nathaniel VanderWeyst (Foley), Reed Graunke (Delano) and Jacob Holmen (New London-Spicer). For the purposes of individual awards, the 98-shooters were separated, in the order listed, by “reverse run,” or the number of consecutive targets hit to conclude their day of competition.
Abby Leach, otherwise noted for starting in the front court during the girls basketball team’s two recent state runs, hit 96 targets to place in a tie for eighth overall. She was also awarded second place among girls, being beaten only by a reverse run tiebreaker by Foley’s Haley Evenson.
Jacob Livermore and Kody Burkhalter finished in a wide-ranging tie for 20th after nailing 95 targets each. Thomas LaMere and Zachary Ernst (93 each), Jack Swentkofske (92), Ben Desrosier (91) and Michael Pennison (90) also placed among the top shooters.
The state shoot also featured competition in junior varsity in novice divisions. The JV Rangers placed fourth of 18 with a score of 432 and were led by Connor Neeser (10th, 90). Heather Kaup hit 88 targets to take the JV silver medal for girls, and Leah Streff hit 87 and just missed the bronze medal by three in the reverse run tiebreaker.
The novice team finished seventh of 11 with 309 targets hit. Joseph Adamek (sixth, 79) and Cody Volkenant (seventh, 78) led the Forest Lake effort.
Burkhalter earned a patch for a run of 50 straight hits. Earning patches for 25-straight were Burkhalter, Blumenthal, Desrosier, Ernst, Livermore and Pennison.
While every team was competing first and foremost against members of its own class, there was an additional prize on offer: The teams with the 40 best scores across all nine classes would receive an invitation to the MSHSL state shoot at the Minneapolis Gun Club which, despite its name, is in Prior Lake.
After all the shots had been taken across nine days, the Rangers ended up as the 32nd best team in the overall competition, thus clinching a trip to the second state event.
At Prior Lake, the Rangers finished with a team score of 464, placing them 20th overall. The championship was claimed by New Prague (484) followed by Alexandria and Lakeville South, which both finished at 482. New Prague was led on its championship run by Woodrow Glazer, who claimed the individual state title as the only competitor to score a perfect 100.
The Rangers’ score was achieved by the combined efforts of LaMere (97), Burkhalter (95), Livermore (93) and Blumenthal (89).
Skeet takes seventh
Though participation numbers are smaller, the Minnesota High School Clay Target League also sponsors competition and a championship in skeet shooting, in which two targets are launched simultaneously in opposite directions, generally flying parallel to the shooter’s position (In trap shooting, one target is launched at a time, typically away from the shooter).
Skeet shooting is divided into two classes; the Rangers placed seventh of 18 in Class 1A with a score of 413 on June 19. New Prague claimed the title, with Glazer nailing all but two targets to lead the standings.
Blumenthal led the Rangers in eighth place overall (91). Also contributing to the score were Cody O’Donovan (87), Theodore Neururer (86), Nathan Manni (78) and Jake Drury (71).
Team points could be picked up across all divisions. Individually, Neururer finished with the silver medal in the JV boys competition. Drury finished fourth in boys novice. McKenzie Adams hit 68 targets to finish sixth in the girls JV event.
Blumenthal earned a 25-straight patch.