BROOKINGS – Golf won’t be the only high school state tournament that takes place after classes are out for the summer.
The South Dakota Clay Target League State Meet will be held June 9 at the Aberdeen Gun Club, for the third straight season and the Brookings Bobcats are sending 25 athletes to compete.
In just its third season, the South Dakota Clay Target League has expanded – from seven teams in 2016 to 21 in 2017 – and this season, the league has grown to 36 teams with 949 athletes competing.
Brookings High School, an inaugural member, has seen its individual numbers grow, as well.
In the first year, the ‘Cats had 23 athletes representing BHS and last season, the roster expanded to 41.
In 2018, there are 42 competing each week.
“Initially, a lot of kids were wondering what it was going to be like, so some of them were just coming out to try it,” said Coach Ron Koerner. “Now, they know what it’s like and they want to be a part of this group. We haven’t seen a lot of expansion – we’ve kind of settled in at that 42 (members) – there are still a lot of kids that don’t know this exists. That is our key – how do we get more. It can be intimidating when they come in here and there’s 42 kids sitting here, along with a dozen parents, in this little, crowded clubhouse.
“We’ve had some kids get a little nervous in here, so it’s best if they join our summer program first and then we can work with them and spend a little more one-on-one time with the coaches. When we get to the spring season, they hit the ground running.”
Coach John Greseth agrees with Koerner that the summer program is a huge plus for the athletes that compete in the spring.
“The overall skill set is so much higher now than it was three years ago – all across the board,” said Greseth. “The 4H kids that have been working even longer are the ones that excel. What we’ve noticed over the last couple of years is that the kids that did the summer and the high school program – they’re the ones that really seem to be making those strides; they’re the ones that are punching those really high scores.
“One of our best female shooters – Mandy Syhre – was brand new last year and she is the top shooter this year. She shot all last summer and is second overall in the conference to a girl who is overall the best in the state.”
The 4H program differs from the high school league in that the shooters are divided by age groups and have to qualify for the state meet, whereas any high school shooter can compete at the state meet in their division.
“They have to qualify (in 4H shooting) and there are different minimum qualifying numbers for their age group, unlike the high school league where everyone can go to state, where they shoot in their individual level,” Koerner said. “There are a lot of kids that think they might not be good enough, but they have to realize they are going to compete against kids at their same skill level, so we’d like to win all three divisions.”
The divisions for High School Clay Target League are Varsity – for those that average 19 and above (out of 25 clays); Junior Varsity – 13-18 average; and Novice – 12 and below.
The Bobcats have experienced success at the state meets – both individually and as a team – as they finished runner-up in the team standings in both 2016 and 2017.
“In 2017, Autumn Christenson won the Novice Division and in 2016, Peder Haugan won that same division – he struggled with a new gun to start out the season; took a long time to get it figured out – he’s really a good shooter and he put it together at the state meet and did really well,” said Koerner. “He was disappointed that he didn’t perform better throughout the season, but it set him up to be strong towards the end.”
Greseth added, “Last year, we brought home the state girls’ Novice champion (Christenson) and brought home two second-place finishes in the Junior Varsity – Peter Bergman and Brooke Wika – that’s actually how a couple of these kids lettered.”
Brookings finished third in their conference standings this season as Syhre placed second in the conference.
The athletes that will compete at this season’s state meet include: Sam Brandenburger, Trenten Buys, Cody Caraway, Braden Clifford, Zane Derynck, Riley Hamer, Peder Haugan, Mackenzie Kelly, Evan Koerner, Alex Kuck, Cody Larson, Brayton Mack, Konnor McClain, Ethan Molengraaf, Ryan Nielson, Colby Olauson, Stanley Scubelek, Thomas Smith, Mathew Smith, Mandy Syhre, Ethan Tesch, David Vanderzee, Kolby Weinberg, Dane Wika and Brooke Wika.
Koerner and Syhre were named MVP’s of the 2018 BHS team while Buys and Kelly were named Most Improved. The Most Inspirational awards went to Haugan and Janine Warne.
Haugan, Koerner and Mathew Smith joined the 25 Straight Club as Haugan, Koerner, Mathew Smith, Derynk, Dane Wika, McClain and Syhre were 2018 letterwinners.
NOTES: The Brookings High School Clay Target Club is sponsored by Whitetails Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Best Choice, Clark Drew Construction and Friends of NRA (Platinum); DakotaLand FCU and Back in Motion (Gold); Cherry Berry, MediBank, The Exchange, Northwestern Energy, Great Western Bank, First Bank & Trust, DC Guns, Robbins Construction, Brookings Wildlife Federation, Farmers Insurance (Jeff Jacobson), Canine Country Club and 605Graphics (Silver).
Papa Johns and Qdoba sponsored the food at Tuesday’s Fun Week festivities, as well.
To learn more about the SD Clay Target league, go to http://sdclaytarget.com/ or like the BHS Clay Target team on Facebook (BHSClays) or (Brookings Gun Club)
Register photos: Above, Cody Larson fires at a clay during a game of Elimination on Tuesday at the Brookings Gun Club during the BHS Clay Target Club’s Fun Week activities where Sponsors were honored and individual awards were handed out.
Below, Four members of the Club get ready to fire during their Elimination game.