Port Huron Northern student Ashley DeFrain, 17, prepares with her teammates during a Michigan State High School Clay Target League competition Wednesday.
TRAPSHOOTING SQUADS SET
Three local high schools start newest school-approved activity
ANYA RATH, TIMES HERALD
On Wednesday evening, students from Port Huron Northern High School, Marine City High School and St. Clair High School picked up their shotguns to kick off the season for the newest school-approved activity locally: trapshooting.
Trapshooting is competitive clay target shooting with a shotgun and is an Olympic sport. Last spring was the inaugural season for the Michigan State High School Clay Target League and this is the first year the sport has come to the Blue Water Area.
The students in the three high schools involved got started with practice a couple weeks ago and are entering into five weeks of competitive scoring starting next week at the Blue Water Sportsman’s Club. This past week was considered a reserve week, meaning scores from Wednesday night will be used in case a future scoring week has to be missed.
St. Clair High School student Greyson Mehlberg, 17, aims during a Michigan State High School Clay Target League competition Wednesday at the Blue Water Sportsman’s Association in Kimball Township. JEFFREY M. SMITH/TIMES HERALD
“Shooting has always been a passion that I loved to do,” said Jake Coverdill, a ninth grade student at Marine City High. “I just expanded from it and decided to try this. (I’m) very excited.” Audree Danielson, the head coach for the Marine City Trap Team, said after she heard the league started in the state, she wanted to get one going at Marine City right away. However, district officials were initially hesitant, she said.
To prove the potential success of the team, Audree and her husband Jeremy Danielson helped develop a trapshooting team at Armada High School last year. East China Schools permitted the Danielsons to start up teams at both high schools this year and Jeremy Danielson is the coach for St. Clair High. The Marine City High team has 11 shooters and the St. Clair High team has nine. “It’s every shooter’s passion that’s young to have the opportunity to shoot for their school,” Audree Danielson said.
Mike Beebe, the coach for Northern’s trap team, said they have nine students on board this season and are expecting even more next year. He said he was able to get district approval to start the team just in time to register for the season.
“A lot of kids that don’t play or may not be interested in other team sports, now have the ability to compete for their school,” Beebe said.
Trapshooting is “the safest high school sport in the country,” Beebe said.
“There’s never been an injury in high school shooting sports,” he said.
Scoring is structured so the sport is both individual and team-based, Beebe said.
“There’s no discrimination in this sport,” Beebe said. “Boys and girls shoot together. They shoot together on the same line. It’s squad versus squad.”
In order to participate on the teams, students are expected to complete safety training and keep their grades up, all the coaches said.
Jeremy Danielson said learning trapshooting is not too difficult.
“It’s like bowling,” he said. “The concept is easy, everybody’s bowled a strike before. It’s just bowling a strike every single time. And the same thing goes with trapshooting … It’s shooting a flying target, you know where it’s coming from but you have to have the reaction and the instinct to knock it down every single time.”
For Marine City and St. Clair High Schools, the trap team’s introductions were dependent on grants provided by the Blue Water Friends of the NRA.
Gary Stirzinger, the chairman of the local organization, said St. Clair High received a $3,729 grant and Marine City High was awarded $3,671.
The grants brought the cost of participation down from an estimated $510 to about $60 to join the league, he said. Costs included firearms, ammunition, safety gear and training material.
“These shooting teams wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the Friends of the NRA grant,” Stirzinger said.
The trap team grants were among nearly $18,000 worth of grants that were distributed by the NRA this spring to organizations including St. Clair County and Sanilac County 4H, the Pine River Sportsmen’s Club and the Richmond Sportsmen’s Club.
“As the chairman of the Friends of the NRA, I’m overwhelmed with pride and I’m honored to be able to (provide these grants),” Stirzinger said. “All the money came from the local community … It went back to the kids to learn the life skills of shooting and be able to shoot for their high school.”
At Northern, Beebe shouldered the cost of any team-related gear and ammunition costs. The involved students brought their own firearms to participate.
Ashley Defrain, a junior at Northern, was named the Times Herald’s Cross Country Runner of the Year in December. But now she’s trying out a new sport.
Trapshooting has become a stress relief for her and she considers it a “healthy environment.” She had never participated in the sport prior to joining Northern’s team.
“I thought it might help increase stamina and my hand-eye coordination,” said Defrain, 17. “I thought I’d be so bad, but I ended up doing pretty good.”
China Township resident Kim Coverdill, whose son Jake is on the Marine City team, said she was “thrilled” to hear about the teams.
“I think it opens more doors for more people whether you’re a boy or whether you’re a girl,” she said. “You can go out there and do something that’s individualized but still part of the team. He considers shooting ‘fun’ but with that fun comes a lot of safety.”
Audree Danielson said she believes education is key when it comes to firearms.
“I think the lack of education is a big problem,” she said. “I think there’s a stigma that grown against (firearms) and we’re working against that. … I encourage everyone to come out and shoot.”
Though it is too late to get registered for this season, contact each school for more information in joining the teams or visit miclaytarget.com.
Contact Anya Rath at (810) 989-6276 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @anya_rath.