Only perfection will do for clay target glory

Two Lakeville South shooters medal at MSHSL meet; Apple Valley has 5th-place team

Zac Olson of Lakeville South finished seventh at the Minnesota State High School League clay target tournament Saturday. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

This is what it has come to at the Minnesota State High School League clay target tournament: miss one target out of 100, and you’re probably not going to win.

Miss two, and you might not finish in the top five. Miss three, and kiss your chances for a medal goodbye.

“The competitive level is getting higher, higher and higher,” said John Miller, head coach of the Apple Valley High School trap shooting club. “The way it is now, any given day kids can rise to the occasion, or they don’t have a good day” and can drop in the standings.

For the third year in a row it took a perfect score to win the MSHSL individual championship. Woodrow Glazer of New Prague broke all 100 targets during the individual competition Saturday at Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. Five other shooters scored 99. Lakeville South’s Zac Olson and Jake Johnson were among six who scored 98. Olson and Johnson earned the last two individual medals for seventh and eighth place via the reverse-run tiebreaker. Olson had the highest reverse run of 70 – in other words, he broke his last 70 targets without missing – to lead the group that scored 98. Johnson was next with a reverse run of 62.

It doesn’t take many mistakes to slide in the standings. Apple Valley senior Kory Miller, the overall top seed and Class 4A champion at the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League tournament earlier this month in Alexandria, broke all 50 targets in his first session Saturday at the MSHSL state meet. But he missed six of his next 50 and dropped into a tie for 33rd place.

Lakeville Souths Jake Johnson broke 98 targets to finish eighth at the state high school clay target tournament. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Apple Valley was the only South Suburban Conference school to qualify for the MSHSL team competition, held Saturday morning. The Eagles finished fifth of the 40 teams that advanced but were only 13 targets behind state champion St. Michael-Albertville. They missed earning a MSHSL state trophy by just three targets.

“We came in expecting to be able to compete. That’s what we did. We were in the mix,” John Miller said. “We expected to do a little better, but that’s how it goes.

“It’s gotten quite a bit more competitive. For example, this year to make the top 100 (and earn an invitation to the MSHSL state meet), you had to have an average of 23.5 (out of 25), whereas three or four years ago that average was down around 21. Now, essentially, what’s happening is you get all these kids clustered at the top and you’re separating them by tenths of a target.”

What might happen in the future, Miller said, is lengthening the state competition to 200 targets and holding “shoot-offs” to break ties – first one to miss drops out of the running. The competition figures to only get tougher. This year the number of high school students competing in the spring trap and skeet leagues rose above 11,000, according to the state clay target league.

Apple Valley graduates 12 seniors from this year’s team but has no shortage of candidates to replace them. There’s also a fall trap shooting season that Apple Valley’s program uses for developmental purposes, while the spring is the main competitions season.

Kory Miller, a senior, helped Apple Valley finish fifth in the team competition. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

“The group we had this year started in seventh and eighth grade and came up through the system,” Miller said. “Now we’ve got seventh- and eighth-graders we’re starting to groom, but we can’t take a year off.”

Other local shooters competing in the MSHSL individual tournament Saturday included Matt Bohl of Eastview (tied for 13th, 97), Bryant Mickelson of Apple Valley (tied for 25th, 95), Logan LeClair of Eastview (tied for 33rd, 94), Caleb Erlandson of Apple Valley (tied for 41st, 93), Adam Kuhlman of Farmington (tied for 41st, 93), Eric Gunderson of Apple Valley (tied for 45th, 92), Michael Stellmach of Apple Valley (tied for 73rd, 89), Erik Vogel of Apple Valley (92nd, 82) and Ben Orzolek of Apple Valley (93rd, 80).

Lakeville South finished third in the Class 9A team competition at the clay target league state meet June 12-20 in Alexandria. The top two from the class advanced to Saturday’s MSHSL state meet. Eastview was eighth, Lakeville North 11th and Farmington 12th in Class 9A varsity. Burnsville was 11th in Class 8A, Rosemount was 14th in Class 7A and Eagan was 21st in Class 7A.

Apple Valley’s championship in the clay target league Alexandria tourney was the Eagles’ second in a row in Class 4A.