Doug Leier: Clay target shooting league growing in popularity among high school students

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DOUG LEIER N.D. Game and Fish Department – The Bismarck Tribune

By mid-June, all the North Dakota “traditional” spring state sports events are wrapped up, but there are still hundreds of kids awaiting their “shot” at state tournament honors. And yes, that is a pun intended.

The North Dakota State High School Clay Target League 2019 state tournament is June 15-16 at The Shooting Park near Horace. It’s an increasingly popular event that has seen participation more than double in just the last three years, necessitating an extra day so everyone who wants to compete can get in their 100 targets.

This spring, nearly 1,700 students from 63 North Dakota high school teams are participating in the clay target league, with more than 1,300 students from 50 high school teams expected to participate in the season-ending state meet.

In 2016, the total was more than 400 student athletes representing 23 high schools, with about 360 participants at the one-day state tournament.

One of the neat aspects of the clay target state tournament is that there is no qualifying like there is for most other state athletic events. All league participants are invited to attend and compete at the same venue. Individuals compete within their assigned shooting skill classification based on their year-end season average. Teams use their top five members’ scores from any classification for their team score.

“Clay target shooting as an activity for North Dakota high school athletes continues to grow rapidly,” said league President John Nelson. “The record-setting growth we’ve seen shows the demand for alternative high school activities related to the state’s longstanding outdoor traditions.”PauseCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time0:00Stream TypeLIVELoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00Fullscreen00:00Mute

The all-inclusive nature creates opportunities for boys and girls of all ages, skills and abilities. The league is fully Title IX compliant with both male and female athletes competing on the same team. Additionally, it’s an “adaptive” sport, which allows students with physical disabilities to take part.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is a presenting partner of the clay target league, with a grant program that can help new teams get started, as well as improve facilities at clay target ranges. In addition, Game and Fish also is involved with sponsorship of the state tournament.

“This is a great fit for us,” said Marty Egeland, Game and Fish education supervisor. “It’s the same type of interest we’re seeing in our National Archery in the Schools program. A lot of kids are participating because of the opportunity to be a part of a team.”

The North Dakota State High School Clay Target League is a member of the USA High School Clay Target League. The league is the independent provider of clay target shooting sports as an extracurricular co-ed and adaptive activity for high schools and students in grades 6 through 12. The organization’s priorities are safety, fun, and marksmanship – in that order. Each student is required to pass a comprehensive firearm safety education course prior to participation.

Nationwide, more than 32,000 students representing more than 1,000 school-approved teams participated in the league during the 2018-19 school year.