Almost 150 students come out for North, South teams
Who knew the market for a trapshooting team in Lakeville would be this strong?
Prior to this season, organizers knew there would be some interest. Other area high schools had 20-30 kids participating.
“I never anticipated a team this size,” said Lakeville South coach Jason Kelvie, who helped coach an Apple Valley team last year with about 30 participants. “I never imagined it would grow this big. It’s a big, diverse group. It’s really exciting.”
The Lakeville North and Lakeville South trap teams have nearly 150 students between the two schools. The sport is open to boys and girls ranging from seventh-graders to seniors.
Many of the students are brand new to trapshooting, but “surprisingly, they’ve picked it up really well,” said Dan Bianchi, who manages both North and South. “The biggest surprise is how adaptable these kids are.”
The students shoot Sunday and Monday at the Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club and Minneapolis Gun Club. They enter their scores online and are ranked against other schools in the state. The members have their own jerseys and vests with names on the back, like those in other sports.
More than 200 schools participate in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League. This is the first year for North and South.
The goal for everyone is to be on top of their game for the state tournament June 7-9 in Alexandria. The expected turnout this year could approach 4,000. There are divisions for novices (average scores of 14 or lower), junior varsity (between 14 and 19), a varsity (19 and higher).
While some are new to the sport, others such as Lakeville South’s Nick Ceplecha have developed into sharpshooters. During the first week of competition, he nailed 25 of 25 targets during one round and 47 for the week. The perfect round helped put him among the top 13 shooters in the state.
Ceplecha was big into hunting and shot trap with a 4-H gun club for a year, but he wasn’t as consistent.
“I was shooting around 12s,” Ceplecha said. “So much of this is consistency and concentration; about 90 percent is mental. Sure, you need good form, but it’s really easy to get out of the zone.”
Alex Vivant is another ace for Lakeville South. He has come close to a perfect round and noticed a dramatic improvement in his aim after joining the team.
“I used to just shoot for recreation, so to be part of a team is really nice,” Vivant said.
During the reserve week he shot a 24 of 25. His goal is to average in the 20s and make varsity for the state tournament.
It’s one of the rare sports in which an entire family can participate. Mitch, Nick and Maria Langer are members of the Lakeville South team.
Although sometimes you join a sport to get away from your siblings.
“I get a little frustrated when they shoot better than me, but they’re older,” she said. “I guess it motivates me to try harder.”
Mitch Langer, a senior, said he wished his school had a team years ago.
“It would have been nice to do this all through high school,” he said. “It opens whole new doors for people to become a star athlete.”
The Langers’ mother, Cindy, had nothing but positive things to say about the experience.
“It’s a whole new element other than playing a contact sport,” Cindy Langer said. “It’s something different for a parent to watch. I’m really enjoying it.”
The Langer children’s father, Rick, also is an avid trapshooter who participates in a league at the Minneapolis Gun Club on Tuesdays.
Trap shooting is something they can do as a family for decades.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re 80, 90, you just need to be able to hold up the rifle,” Cindy Langer said.
Cody and Cole Bobeldyk, brothers on the Lakeville North team, said they were excited to show off their new marksmanship skills when they go hunting with their family later this year.
“We have a big family with 20 people going up there,” Cole said.
“Hopefully we’ll get a few more birds this year,” said Cody.
The veterans have also shared their knowledge with their lesser-experienced teammates. About 30 percent of the participants had never picked up a rifle before.
Many participate in other spring sports and have other commitments with part-time jobs and Boy Scouts, but they work trapshooting around their schedules. They don’t directly compete against anyone. They just need to fill in their scores during the week.
“The safety and competence of all of them is outstanding,” Lakeville North coach Rick Crippen said. “We have kids that shoot two and kids who shoot 20, and they’re just as excited. On the squad that I coach, there’s two kids that have never fired a gun before. The way the students are helping out is really neat to see.”
Every participant went through a gun safety program through the Department of Natural Resources before joining. There are several range safety officers on site for every round.
There are 34 volunteers to help put it together. The volunteers know what they doing, too. Virginia Hines, a competitive shooter for 10 years on the All American Trapshooting Team and a member of the Minnesota Trapshooting Hall of Fame, hopes to pass on her love of the sport to the next generation.
“It’s great for the kids that don’t have another sport – something anybody can do,” Hines said. “Any shape or size – you don’t necessarily have to be physically fit.
“It’s like a video game. You have to concentrate. It’s meant a lot to me through the years and it’s great to see so many people out here again.”