By Lee Epps
The Mabel-Canton trap team finished fifth in the state and Spring Grove 29th as the 2022 high school clay target season ended on June 25 at Prior Lake. Later in the day, there was a separate competition for the 100 All-State shooters to compete for individual honors, where Spring Grove seniors Camron Kraus and Carson Gerard both hit 98 of 100 flying clay targets.
Amazingly, 11 of the 100 All-Staters were from “Journal 11” schools, including four who were repeat honorees. They had the best 100 season averages among 11,792 student shooters in Minnesota (the top 00.8%). The four All-State Cougars and four All-State Lions were eligible to compete in both the team and individual events.
In that afternoon individual competition, each All-State shooter fired 100 consecutive shots (no break). With 98s, Gerard and Kraus tied for 16th place while three-time All-State Brady Gile of Rushford-Peterson and two-time All-State Ashlyn Hammel of Spring Grove were each one bird back at 97 to tie for 24th place. From Mabel-Canton, two-time All-State Austin Snell (96) tied for 36th just one target ahead of three Cougar teammates: Saijal Slafter (95), Shawn Swenson (95) and two-time All-State Emma Middendorf (95). Taylor Reinhardt of Spring Grove hit 92 flying clay targets while Tristan Lewison of LeRoy-Ostrander hit 89. Logan Torgerson of Lanesboro was not able to attend.
The Spring Grove and Mabel-Canton teams had qualified for the final MSHSL all-classes state event by being among the 40 highest-scoring squads in the state (SG 14th, M-C 35th) at the preliminary state tournaments where teams competed in nine classes (1A through 9A). In the Class 3A Tournament, Spring Grove had placed fourth and Mabel-Canton seventh among 41 teams. The all-classes shoot-off was the third competition between the two neighboring schools with M-C having finished first and SG second in their conference race.
The final overall state tournament (all classes) was the only competition conducted by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), while the regular season and then the Class 1A through 9A state tournaments were conducted by the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL).
The spring season began with 11,792 athletes on 400 registered teams in Minnesota grouped into nine classes – according to number of registered shooters rather than school enrollment. Teams with the fewest shooters placed in Class 1A and then up through Class 9A – and then placed into competitive conferences. All “Journal 11” schools fielded teams with five of them in Class 2A. Kingsland won the Class 1A, Conference 10 championship while Mabel-Canton was the champion of Class 3A, Conference 3. Spring Grove was runner-up to the Cougars.
After the five-week conference schedule, the postseason began with a day-long state tournament for each of the nine classes in Alexandria (June 13-21). This nine-day event is annually the world’s largest clay target shooting event, which in 2022 featured 7,897 athletes on 329 teams. After each class crowned a state championship team, the 40 highest-scoring teams (regardless of class) qualified for the overall state championship conducted by the MSHSL on June 25 at Prior Lake.
Also at Prior Lake, the individual state competition involved the 100 All-State shooters, determined by highest season averages during the five-week conference schedule. While individuals qualified for MSHSL state during the conference season, teams qualified at the state competitions at Alexandria.
Mabel-Canton had the highest team score each week on the way to winning Conference 3A-3. Two-time All-State Austin Snell was the top scoring boy in the conference (24.4 average out of a perfect 25.00), and two-time All-State Emma Middendorf the top-scoring girl. Half of the top-10 conference girls were Cougars: first was Middendorf (23.9), fourth was All-State Saijal Slafter (23.70), fifth Gwen Tollefsrud (22.40), sixth Camryn Cox (22.10) and seventh Emma Tollefsrud (21.40).
Mabel-Canton had half of the top dozen boys in the conference: first was Austin Snell (24.40), fifth All-State Shawn Swenson (23.50), sixth Hayden Erickson (23.20), ninth Riley Snell (22.90) and 12th Dawson Kleiboer (22.80).
At Class 3A state, The Cougars placed seventh among 41 teams in Class 3A and among the top 40 from all 400 teams statewide to qualify for the MSHSL finals. Snell was nearly perfect while blasting 99 of 100 clay critters to finish second among 391 Class 3A shooters. Slafter hit 95, the third-best score among all the Class 3A girls. And then it was on to place fifth at MSHSL State, another strong finish after placing 12th in 2021. Logan Henry has coached Mabel-Canton for seven years, but 2022 was his first campaign as head coach. This spring, he mentored 29 Cougars (19 boys, 10 girls).
Spring Grove, with sixth graders allowed to compete this spring, had a program-record 29 registered shooters (22 boys, 7 girls). That elevated the Lions up two classes from being a Class 1A conference champion last year to Class 3A this year and runner-up to Mabel-Canton in Conference 3A-3. The Lions had three of the league’s top 10 boys: second was All-State senior Camron Kraus (24.30), fourth All-State senior Carson Gerard (23.60) and tied for ninth freshman Garrett Waldenberger (22.90). Four of the top-10 conference girls were Lions: tied for second were All-State sophomore Taylor Reinhardt (23.80) and two-time All-State senior Ashlyn Hammel (23.80), eighth place senior Marah Mathison (21.30) and 10th senior Tiffany Michels.
Twenty-seven Lions (all except two) made the long trip to Alexandria for Class 3A state, where Spring Grove placed fourth out of 41 teams in Class 3A and had the 14th best score among all 400 Minnesota teams. Hammel hit 98 out of 100, surpassing all Class 3A girls and tied for the third-best score overall (boys and girls). Veteran trap coach Don Hagen served as head coach for the first time this spring.
Kingsland won Conference 10 in Class 1A, the program’s second loop crown. The Knights had five of the top-25 scoring boys in the conference: tied for ninth freshman Blake Oeltjen (22.50), 14th freshman Zach Reiland (22.10), 17th senior Ashton Boysen and junior Acelee Kohn (both 22.00) and 23rd freshman Marek Boysen (21.70). Senior Emily Miner (22.20) had the second-best average among all conference girls, and senior Lydia Voeltz (19.80) ranked seventh.
At 1A state in Alexandria, the Knights placed eighth out of 68 teams, led by freshman Cameron Miner who hit 95 out of 100 clays to finish tied for 14th among 279 shooters. Emily Miner was one bird back at 94 with Boysen at 90 and Voeltz at 89. There were 19 Knights on the roster (17 boys, 2 girls), 13 of which made the trip to 1A state. The Knights are coached for the 10th year by Doug Plaehn.
Houston had 16 shooters this spring. The only two girls were two of the best in the conference. Senior Hailey Alfson (19.50) had the second-highest average among conference girls, and sophomore Samantha Witt ranked seventh. In Houston’s first season in Class 2A, the team placed third among eight teams in Class 2A, Conference 2. Clint Roth had the third-best season average (22.50) among the league boys. Four Hurricanes competed at 2A state, but five were required for a team score. At state, Witt finished 15th among all junior varsity girls.
Houston was a young team with only one senior and no juniors. Half of the competitors were newcomers to competitive shooting. The young Hurricanes made progress each week. Some “were barely taller than their gun,” noted co-coach Jon Hibbs, who along with Chad Walters, has coached the ‘Canes all seven years.
Rushford-Peterson, coached for the eighth year by Colby Lind, came in third among the eight teams in Conference 2A-5. Senior Brady Gile, who was the league’s top shooter during the five-week conference competition (averaging 24.10 out of 25), was also the top shooter in a field of 336 at the Class 3A State Tournament, where he hit a perfect 100 out of 100 clay birds. Senior Breena Pehler (20.5) had the third highest season average among conference girls. Five of the top 25 boys in the conference were Trojans: first Gile (24.10), 14th senior Thomas Ekern (22.10), 21st junior Chason Mierau (21.60), 22nd junior Grady Hengel (21.10) and 23rd senior Malachi Bunke (21.00).
There were 17 Trojans competing at Class 2A state, where Rushford-Peterson finished 12th among 54 teams. Gile had the perfect 100, while Ekern connected with 94 clay birds. There were 24 Trojans on the trap roster (22 boys, 2 girls), including several valuable senior veterans along with a few new senior shooters.
LeRoy-Ostrander, coached for the sixth year by Gary Schaefer, saw the roster increase to 22 (15 boys, 7 girls), which moved the Cardinals up to Class 2A for the first time. L-O finished in the top half of a very strong Conference 2A-5, placing fourth among eight teams. The Cardinals’ top scorer was All-State Tristan Lewison, whose average of 24.0 was the third best among all the conference boys.
For the second straight season, Anna Welsh was the top-scoring girl in the conference, on average hitting 21 clay targets (out of a perfect 25). Four of the top 10 girls were Cardinals, including fourth-place Sarah Kiefer (20.30), sixth Ashlyn Ness (19.50) and eighth Kimberly Volkart (17.20).
L-O had 14 shooters make the trip to the Class 2A State tournament where they finished 19th among 54 teams. The five Cardinals combined to connect with 452 of 500 clay birds.
Lanesboro was also assigned to Conference 5 in Class 2A where the Burros finished sixth out of eight. All-State junior Logan Torgerson had the fifth-best season average (23.5) among conference boys. Nine Burros competed at 2A state, where Lanesboro was in the middle, finishing 27th among 54 squads. The Burros shot down 436 of their 500 clay birds, led by freshman Holdyn Willford. who connected with 93 out of 100 flying clays. The Burro roster consisted of 24 shooters (22 boys, 2 girls), including four seniors and four first-year competitors. LHS was coached for the seventh season by Dustin Flattum.
Grand Meadow finished seventh among eight teams in Class 3A, Conference 2 this spring. The top scorer was sophomore Carson Paul, who averaged 21.90. Seventh grader Hadley Pooler (14.60) ranked 14th among conference girls while seventh grader Avery Paul was 16th. GM took 15
shooters to the 3A state meet in Alexandria, where the Superlarks came in 32nd out of 41 teams. Carson Paul hit 93 of 100 clay targets. For the ninth year, the Superlarks were coached by Greg Lamp, who had a roster of 28 this spring (24 boys, 4 girls). There was only one senior, and one fourth of the shooters were first-year competitors.
Caledonia finished fifth among the eight teams in Class 2A, Conference 6. Ten Warriors competed at Class 2A state, finishing 43rd out 54 teams, where senior Jeremy Stehr led Warrior scoring while hitting 90 of 100 clay targets. Both he and sophomore Gabe Curley had one perfect 25-for-25 round. Fifth-year coach Kevin Weichert worked with 23 shooters this spring (21 boys, 2 girls), including six seniors and seven first-time teammates.
Chatfield, with a roster of 53 had the most shooters of any Journal 11 school. In Class 7A, Conference 2, the Gophers finished eighth among eight schools. Samual Finley was the team’s top scorer (22.20 average). Ramie Johnson was the girls’ leading scorer (16.20). There were 10 Chatfield shooters who competed at 7A state, where the team hit 433 out of 500 birds to place 24th as a team and Rachel Johnson had the second-best score among novice girls. For the ninth season, the Gophers were coached by Mike Lisowski, who was well pleased with the personal growth he witnessed, especially with so many new shooters
Fillmore Central, coached for the eighth year by Bill Hanlon, had 35 shooters (32 boys, 3 girls), the second-most of the 11 Journal-area teams. There was a sizable contingent of younger seventh and eighth graders, which contributed to the Falcons moving up from Class 3A to 4A. Fillmore Central finished eighth out of eight teams in Conference 4A-5. Junior Sam Springer was the team’s leading scorer during the conference season. The Falcons sent 15 shooters to 4A state where they placed 35th as a team and for the second straight season, Josh Bissen was the team’s top scorer, this year hitting 81 of 100 flying clays.