Jacob friede/lakeland times
Rhinelander’s Trevor Knapp takes aim on the sporting clay course. Knapp would hit 53 out of 100 sporting clay targets.
5/25/2019 7:30:00 AM Northwoods Invitational a hit in Harshaw
Jacob Friede Of The Lakeland Times
High school clay target shooting is popular. Very popular. And nowhere was that more evident then last Friday and Saturday at the Harshaw Sports Club, where over 230 varsity shooters from 15 teams from across northern Wisconsin competed in the second annual Northwoods Invitational.
Cars spilled out onto Rocky Run Road and the grounds overflowed with spectators as camps of high school teams, with weapons in hand, stood ready to bust some clay.
"The sport is growing. It's busting out at the seams," Harshaw Sports Club president Todd Berg said. "It's unbelievable. We're at the biggest capacity we've ever been at. We've got cars parked everywhere."
The event was a carnival for outdoors enthusiasts, with a midway of hunting-minded vendors, from the Fur Trappers of Wisconsin to the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association to the National Wild Turkey Federation.
But the main attraction was, of course, the shooting, and there was plenty of it. Each competitor shot 100 clay targets from the traditional traps and 100 targets from the sporting clay course.
Carved right out of the woods, the course at Harshaw is a work of simulated hunting art. Targets scurry across the ground like rabbits, fly from the trees like grouse, and dart overhead like ducks. Shooters fire from a traditional blind, a layout blind, and even from a suspended boat. Every station was crafted with the angle and speed of a live hunting shot in mind.
"That's a really cool activity. It's almost like playing golf," Lakeland Union Thunderbirds head coach Tom Oestreich said. "You go hole to hole and the birds come from all sorts of different directions. It's really cool, realistic hunting situations."
The T-Birds were there for a non-conference shoot. They typically shoot in the Great Northern Conference where they are currently 4-2 and in third place.
"So far we're having a good year. We've been in the top three all season," Oestreich said. "Right now we're in third place, but we've been in second place most of the season so the kids have been doing a nice job and shooting well."
And they continued that good shooting on Friday. On the trap field, the Thunderbirds finished the Northwoods Invitational in fifth place with a score of 447. That was the total of their top five scores.
Selena Grundy led the way for the T-Birds, busting 96 out of 100 targets. That was also the third highest score in the entire tournament of over 230 shooters. Following Grundy for Lakeland was William Beede-Morgan, who scored 90, Cole Schuenemann who scored 88, Dwight Miesbauer who scored 87, and Max Bybee who scored 86.
On the sporting clay course, Lakeland finished third with a score of 209. That was the compilation of their top three scores. Bode Guthrie was the top sporting clay shooter for Lakeland, busting 73 out of 100 targets. Michael Campbell was second for Lakeland with 70 and Selena Grundy was third with 66.
These were the top scores for Lakeland out of the 20 shooters who competed for the T-Birds.
Oestreich said the growing popularity of high school trap shooting is evident at Lakeland, where he has a total of 50 kids on the team. He said high participation is evidence the sport is appealing to a wide range of students.
"It provides an opportunity for kids that might not be in a typical varsity sport to do something else," Oestreich said.
Phil Kriesel, head coach of the Rhinelander Hodags agreed.
"A lot of kids that are in trap are not necessarily in other sports and they're getting the team atmosphere," he said.
Kriesel's Hodags are tied, record-wise, with Lakeland at 4-2 in the Great Northern Conference, though they are 50 total points behind the T-Birds and in fifth place overall.
"We're doing really well," he said. "I'm really pleased. The kids are doing great."
On the trap field at the Northwoods Invitational over the weekend, just as in conference, Rhinelander trailed Lakeland by just a bit, scoring 437 and taking sixth place. The top trap shooter for the Hodags was Trevor Knapp, who tied Lakeland's Grundy with a 96. Following Knapp, Justin Prasnick shot an 89, James Adams shot an 87, Colton Umland shot an 83, and Matthew Alsteens shot an 82.
On the sporting clay course Rhinelander took sixth place with a score of 192. Colton Umland was the top Hodag, busting 77 out of 100 sporting clay targets. James Adams scored 62 and both Trevor Knapp and Justin Prasnick scored a 53 for Rhinelander.
'From the Stone Age to the Space Age'
In total, 35,000 clay discs were launched over the weekend. To help with all that throwing, the Harshaw Sports Club was fortunate to have Mayville Engineering Company (MEC), of Mayville as one of the event's platinum sponsors. MEC outfitted the entire sporting clay course with the state-of-the-art clay target throwing machines they manufacture.
"We've been making the clay target machines throwing everything since 2013," director of inside sales Dan Dittmann said. "I stacked them all up in the trailer I pulled up here and wheeled them all out and got them all set up yesterday."
The partnership between MEC and the Harshaw Sports Club, which had been shopping for new throwers, could not have come at a better time and it was fitting the Northwoods Invitational was the setting. The success of the first invitational, last year, was a major resume builder and the reason the club was recently awarded a $10,000 shared grant from the National Rifle Association (NRA) to upgrade their clay target throwers. That means both the Harshaw Sports Club and NRA will put forth $5,000 toward the purchase of new equipment.
And with MEC in town, the Harshaw Sports Club got to see their target throwers in action and they were impressed.
With the money in hand, plus an amazing anonymous donation for three more MEC throwing machines, it was the absolute perfect time for the Harshaw Sports Club to upgrade.
"We've now added nine MEC 400 Defenders to our arsenal. That just brought us from the Stone Age to the Space Age," Berg said. "We're on our way to becoming the premier sporting clays facility in northern Wisconsin."
And Dittman will have a lot less to load up and take back to Mayville.
"We got a little deal worked out with them. They're going to keep some of the machines behind once we leave, so it worked out good for both of us," he said.
It also worked out for the student-athletes who got to experience not only a first-rate sporting clay course but some top of the line machinery as well.
With all the flying discs and shouldered shotguns, safety was the weekend's ultimate target and the student-athletes were right on the mark. They practiced safe firearm handling at every turn, whether on the range, on the course, or walking to or from. Never was a barrel seen pointed anywhere except skyward or at the ground.
"These kids recognize, that an accident with a firearm is going to be disastrous, They have it drilled in them from the time they start," Berg said. "These kids know how safe they have to be."
And they know that because it's been taught to them by preceding generations, which were well represented on the grounds. A contingency of beaming proud fans followed each team around the sporting clay course and cheered the shooters on.
"That is a really cool part of the event," Berg said. "Just seeing the interaction of parents, coaches, mentors, grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins and old people and kids."
No matter what the age, the passion for shooting was apparent on the smiles of both the competitors and spectators faces and it didn't take the cadence of shotgun fire to conclude that everybody at the Northwoods Invitational was having an absolute blast.
Jacob Friede may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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