Among 158 trap teams, Mabel-Canton finished 19th and Spring Grove 63rd at the National Championships of the USA High School Clay Target League. Two Cougars earned individual acclaim; Colton Heintz-Kuderer placed 20th and Austin Snell 35th (both in the top 2%) among 1,684 individual shooters. There were also individual competitors from Kingsland, Rushford-Peterson, Lanesboro, Grand Meadow, Houston and Caledonia at the July 9-11 event at Mason, Michigan.
In the team competition, five shooters contributed to each school’s team total. Only 81 of 158 teams qualified for the second and final round. Both Journal-area teams making the trip, Mabel-Canton and Spring Grove scored well enough on Day 1 to make the cut. Adding in the second round of scores, the Cougars hit 931 of 1,000 clay targets to place 19th, while the Lions blew apart 895 birds to finish 63rd. Amazingly, there were eight teams with perfect 1,000-for-1,000 scores.
In the completely separate individual competition, over a thousand shooters each attempted 100 shots, seeking to be among the 406 to qualify for the second and final round. Of 21 Journal-area shooters, five made the cut to attempt another 100 shots. Heintz-Kuderer went on to finish 20th, hitting 197 of 200 birds (99+98). Austin Snell connected with 195 (97+98) to place 35th. Bradley Grabau of Kingsland was two birds back at 193 (96+97) to place 72nd. Camron Kraus of Spring Grove scored 190 (95+95) while a third Cougar Colton Tollefsrud hit 183 targets (96+87).
About two-thirds of the field had been eliminated on Day 1, including Spring Grove’s Ashlyn Hammel 92 (out of 100) and Isaac Vick 91 along with Mabel-Canton’s Riley Snell 91, Lanesboro’s Holdyn Willford 90, Rushford-Peterson’s Brady Gile 89, Mabel-Canton’s Dawson Kleiboer 89 as well as Spring Grove’s Christian Bjerke 88, Taylor Reinhardt 87 and Garrett Waldenberger 87 plus Houston’s Aaron Lynch 87, Spring Grove’s Carson Gerard 86, Caledonia’s Taylor Berg 85, Mabel-Canton’s Tracer Tollefsrud 83, Rushford-Peterson’s Gregg Gile 80, Kingsland’s Cameron Miner 80 and Grand Meadow’s Hunter Shane 79.
Previously, Mabel-Canton had been the conference runner-up before placing third in the Class 3A State Tournament, qualifying the Cougars for the all-classes state tournament where they placed 12th among the top 40 schools in Minnesota before taking 19th in the nation.
Spring Grove had claimed its fifth conference crown in the last six seasons. Although not sending a complete team to nationals, both LeRoy-Ostrander and Lanesboro had also captured conference championships during the regular season. It was for the third straight league title for the Cardinals. At the Class 1A State Tournament. Spring Grove finished fifth, LeRoy-Ostrander 19th and Lanesboro 23rd among 67 teams.
Clay Target teams are unique with both girls and boys eligible for the same team and also by having two seasons during the school year. Both the fall and spring seasons are conducted by the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League (MSHSCTL), which in the spring also stages a state tournament for each of nine classes. Then the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) supervises an overall state tournament that features the MSHSCTL’s top 40 teams.