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HHS trap and skeet shooting team largest in the country this year

Senior Elli Walker, a captain this year, shoots at last year's state tournament. Photo courtesy of Dawn Walker1 / 2
Last year's Novice Team took second in Class 8 last season. Pictured from left to right, in the back are Devin Swenson, Jake Shimota, Matt Slattum, Jenna Anderson, Ana Spinler and Mykayla Snaza Babcock; in front are Allie Dunkel, Erica McDonald, Lauren Chamberlain and Caitlyn Wagner. Photo courtesy of Dawn Walker2 / 2

The Hastings High School trap and skeet team continues to grow and this season, according to head trap coach Earl Robinson, the team is the largest in the country.

"This year we have 118 kids on the trap team and 27 on the skeet team," Robinson said. "The club has been going for six years and the last three years we have been the largest team in the state."

Robinson said that the inspiration for the club was Larry Potterfield, the CEO of MidwayUSA, a popular hunting, shooting and outdoor retailer. Potterfield is well known in the hunting and shooting communities, and something Potterfield said at a conference Robinson attended stuck with Robinson.

"He (Potterfield) said he had more money than he knew what to do with, and he wanted to put it in the hands of young shooters and he would make it happen," Robinson explained.

So Robinson partnered with the MidwayUSA to set up an endowment account with the MidwayUSA Foundation. MidwayUSA matches money raised, which is stored in a team account with the foundation, and each year the team can continue to raise money and add money to that account. Then every year the team can request a grant of 5 percent of that endowment, which is released to the team to help fund the team.

"Every year we have a raffle," Robinson said. "This year we are raffling three guns, a set of binoculars and a range finder. We sell 500 tickets at $20 a ticket, so right there is $10,000. Half of that goes back to MidwayUSA to pay for the items and the other half goes into our endowment, which MidwayUSA matches one-to-one. So that is $10,000 from that raffle that goes into our account, and if anyone makes a donation to the team, MidwayUSA will match that two-to-one."

It is through raffles like that, as well as other opportunities offered by MidwayUSA, that the club is funded.

The arrangement with MidwayUSA is critical because of how expensive trap and skeet shooting can be for a team of Hastings' size.

"I figured out it costs about $350 per kid to be on the team," Robinson explained. "Returning shooters are charged $200, while new shooters we charge $225 because of the cost of the jersey. We have 23 or 24 coaches this year, all of whom are volunteers and aren't paid."

The team's largest expenses are ammunition, clay targets and league fees. Robinson said that combination cost the team $54,000 last season, and this season he has bought 430 cases of ammunition for the team. Without MidwayUSA and the many opportunities they afford teams to raise money, the effort for a team Hastings' size would be much more difficult.

However, that investment of time and money has produced results. Last year, Hastings took third in their conference and finished fourth on their day to shoot at the state tournament. Only the top two teams from each day in the state tournament advance. They did take fifth out of 285 teams over the course of the whole 10 days though, as the margin of error between teams is very thin. The top team last year shot a 491 out of 500 at the state tournament, while Hastings shot a 480. In both trap and skeet, each competitor shoots two official rounds of 25, for a score out of 50, and the top-10 scores were counted in the case of the state tournament.

This season Robinson said they hope to improve upon those finishes as they have a good combination of returning and skilled, new shooters. The team has 44 new shooters to the club, 40 of which do not have formal experience shooting trap or skeet. Their practices and competitions, besides the state tournament, are held at the 3M Trap and Skeet Club in Cottage Grove, which they share with the Cottage Grove team.

Robinson said they do not turn anyone away from the club, but do limit participation to high schoolers and then a limited number of eighth-graders. Participants can letter in club sports at Hastings and for the trap and skeet team, shooters must average a 19-out-of-25 or higher to letter. To go along with Robinson, skeet head coach Darin Berg, and their many assistant coaches, the team also has numerous captains each year to help younger shooters and keep organized. This year's captains are seniors Cody Wagner, Nicolle Bond, Ben Route, Elli Walker, Dylan Chamberlain, Colton Cassidy, and juniors Dawson Hobbs and Kyle Kieffer.

Robinson attributes the team's outstanding participation to the Hastings community.

"I think that Hastings has a strong hunting heritage and that's why we have so many kids that want to get involved with the trap and skeet team," he said. "It's just a way to improve their shooting, which is why I think Hastings does so well with it."

No matter the competition results, Robinson said they have the same goals each year.

"We want everyone to have fun, improve on their shooting and do the best they can."

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

(651) 319-4502
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