CEDAR FALLS - Part state finals…part county fair. Up and down the nearly mile-long competition line at the state trapshooting finals, five-person squads from dozens of Iowa high schools were vying for scholarships, trophies, bragging rights…and that inner competition with themselves.
The season ending Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Iowa High School State trapshooting championship brought 900 individual shooters to the Cedar Falls course; most competing June 3 for the SCTP competition and more coming in for the June 4 high school trap finals. The weekend capped a season with 150 trap league meets conducted through April and May, in which 545,000 shots were fired. Practice rounds accounted for many more than that.
"We had twice a week practices; and 13 competitions," recalls Ben Weber from Iowa City West's squad. And there is the pre-season, too. Teammate Bryce Haines figures he went through 2,500 rounds by the middle of March.
The competition has a state tournament feel, with vendors selling tenderloins, deep fried chips, ice cream and soft drinks. Between rounds, spectators and shooters relax in lawn chairs around picnic coolers, as they jockey for the narrow strip of shade from trees stretching along the course.
But when the competitors step the line; it's down to business. During the first day, stiff winds concerned most.
"With the direction of the wind, the birds come out low. You have to keep your gun low; not overshoot them," notes Weber.
"Break 25? (in a row). It's a mental game. It's all about composure," offers Haines. "Miss one? You can't worry about it."
Haines finished third in the all state boys standings with a 292 (out of 300 targets). Good friend and former teammate Skylar Rath, from Solon, grabbed top honors, with 294.
Former teammate? This is Solon's first year as a team. For the couple years before that, their shooters were blended into the West squad.
"We owe West a big 'thanks' for that," says Solon coach Scott Rath.
Most teams are clubs; relying on sponsor support for equipment and travel. The season includes head to head and 'electronic' competition, in which schools send in their scores to be posted to the DNR website. The sporting clays and skeet championships were held a couple weeks ago near Waukee. The year-ending trapshooting activities-the SCTP and trap-were wrapped up in Cedar Falls. Year end awards included team and individual finishes; with boys and girls all state squads as well. The DNR-hosted Iowa Cup trophy combines scores from the various competitions. Charles City, Maquoketa and Northwood-Kensett went 1-2-3. Solon was fourth, with West fifth among the 42 high schools in that competition.
A complete listing of individual and team finishes, in the various categories (Iowa Cup, SCTP and trap) is posted on the SCTP Shooting Sports Events & Results page.
The state shoot serves several purposes. One day serves as 'the' state trapshooting championship. The other helps build the foundation for national and international competition.
"Through the Scholastic Clay Target Program, the USA's top instructors get a look at the top talent coming up," explains Guy Thomas, who just returned with Iowa kids, invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado.
"Iowa had a pretty good showing; five of the 60 invitees. That included the only one (Ryan Smithhart of Oskaloosa) invited for both trap and skeet," Thomas said.
"They get top level instruction. The international competition is different," emphasizes Thomas. "The targets are faster. They come out at different angles, different elevations. In skeet, you are looking at more pairs. Those instructors will keep their eye on these kids (in the years to come). More than half of the Olympic shooting team came up through SCTP, including the gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics."
He anticipates a surge of kids coming out of high school programs; with more colleges offering trap and skeet at the next level. There were 72 five-person squads knocking down clay targets at the Iowa SCTP event…including nine teams just from Ankeny High School. Nick Arthur, of Lynnville-Sully, was the top SCTP shooter, breaking 197 of 200 targets.