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Southeastern Wisconsin youth trapshooters keep busting targets and breaking records

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel logo Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 6/10/2019 Paul A. Smith
a group of people playing baseball on a field: Participants at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference tournament line the trap fields June 1 at Waukesha Gun Club in Waukesha, Wis. © Paul A. Smith Participants at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference tournament line the trap fields June 1 at Waukesha Gun Club in Waukesha, Wis.

WAUKESHA - The broad green acres at Waukesha Gun Club were bustling with trapshooters last Saturday.

From trap fields number 1 in the east to 10 in the west, the staccato "pop, pop" was accompanied by the sight of orange clay pigeons, one after another, breaking and falling to ground. 

a group of people playing baseball on a field © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

For the Wisconsin shooting sports community, the activity in Waukesha wasn't a big surprise, as the club annually hosts many of the state's largest events.

But what made this two-day gathering notable were the participants and the competition.

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It was the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships.

Students from 14 schools and clubs assembled to determine titles amidst some of the keenest competition in the nation.

a man standing on top of a grass covered field: A member of the Lake Geneva Badger team breaks a target at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club. © Paul A. Smith A member of the Lake Geneva Badger team breaks a target at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club.

In all, 463 trapshooters took part, making it likely the largest prep conference tourney in our region and perhaps the state.

That's right, trapshooting. In southeastern Wisconsin, the sport (an Olympic medal sport since 1900) is as popular, if not more so, than traditional spring prep offerings such as tennis and track and field.

"It's caught on," said Brad Patterson, head coach of the Milwaukee Lutheran Red Knights. "It doesn't matter if a kid is 4 foot 10 or 6 foot 5, or 95 pounds or 250, or male or female, they can all compete."

The competition is run under the Scholastic Clay Target Program, the nation's largest such program for youth. The SCTP was formed in 2001 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Over the last 18 years it has spread to 48 states and has 20,000 participants, including 3,800 in Wisconsin, said Tom Wondrash, SCTP national director.

Students participate either through teams formed at their schools or at local clubs. 

a group of baseball players standing on top of a grass covered field: Landon Bartolomei, left, and Oscar Pruhs share a fist bump between stations at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Traphooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club. The boys are members of the Marquette University High School Trap Team. © Paul A. Smith Landon Bartolomei, left, and Oscar Pruhs share a fist bump between stations at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Traphooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club. The boys are members of the Marquette University High School Trap Team.

The Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference began its season in March.

Many began practice sessions in January.

The teams are: Badger High School Trap Team; Brookfield East High School; Cudahy Packers Trap Team; Jefferson Sportsmens Club Youth Trap Team; Marquette Hilltoppers Trap Team; Milwaukee Lutheran Red Knights; Muskego Warriors Trap Team; New Berlin Trap Club; Oconomowoc Raccoon Trap Club; Poplar Creek Claybusters; Racine Lutheran Trap Team; Shoreland Lutheran Shooting Club; Union Grove Broncos Shooting Club; and Wauwatosa East/West Trap Shooting Club.

Trapshooting helps develop mental and physical discipline, according to proponents, and also teaches responsible use of a firearm.

Participants in SCTP events are disqualified immediately if they violate a safety rule.

No disrespect to other activities, but trapshooting promotes development in students in ways other sports can't, said Dan Kent, head coach of the Marquette Hilltoppers. 

Kent said one-third of the students who join the team have never shot a firearm before.

Each year at least one parent will express concerns about their child getting involved in trapshooting.

"They say they're not a 'gun family,' " Kent said. "I tell them I'll refund their money if their son doesn't become more organized, more safety aware and more mature."

Over the last 10 seasons, he's never had a parent claim a refund, Kent said.

Kent,  a retired detective from the Milwaukee Police Department, started the Marquette program in 2010. It has grown substantially over the years, and in 2019 featured 54 trapshooters and 18 assistant coaches.

The Marquette coaches are required to pass a national course in shooting instruction and take range safety officer training.

a black and red sign on a brick wall: A pin was provided to participants commemorating the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships held May 31 and June 1 at Waukesha Gun Club. A record 463 students participated in the event. © Paul A. Smith A pin was provided to participants commemorating the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships held May 31 and June 1 at Waukesha Gun Club. A record 463 students participated in the event.

Another aspect sets trapshooting apart – it demands extremely high achievement, even perfection.

A tennis player may win a tournament despite committing multiple unforced errors. A high jumper may take first even though he or she knocked off the bar at several heights.

But at an event like last weekend's conference trapshooting tourney, the top competitors entered knowing they would likely need a perfect score to win.

On Friday afternoon, Nolan Nissen of Marquette did exactly that, breaking all 25 targets in each of his four rounds for 100/100.

Would it last through the end of the tournament?

The answer came Saturday afternoon on trap field #6. Alison Hauser of Jefferson was clean on her first 25.

"It started out very smoothly," said Hauser, a senior at Jefferson High School. "I felt like it was one of those days when you're 'on'."

Hauser had run 100 straight once before, at the 2018 SCTP national championship, where she placed third.

But it would take one of her best days on the trap field to reach that level again.

The second 25 also all broke for Hauser, as did the third.

Like a pitcher tossing a no-hitter, Hauser said she didn't want to rush anything and just stay focused.

a man wearing a red hat on top of a grass covered field: Alison Hauser of Jefferson Sportsmens Youth Trap Club was the overall champion at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference tournament held last weekend at Waukesha Gun Club in Waukesha, Wis. Hauser broke 100 out of 100 targets in her first four rounds of trap and followed it up with 25 out of 25 in a shoot-off to take the title. © Photo courtesy of Brad Patterson. Alison Hauser of Jefferson Sportsmens Youth Trap Club was the overall champion at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference tournament held last weekend at Waukesha Gun Club in Waukesha, Wis. Hauser broke 100 out of 100 targets in her first four rounds of trap and followed it up with 25 out of 25 in a shoot-off to take the title.

Her father, John Hauser, is coach of the Jefferson team. He said he just offered the normal encouragement and didn't talk about the possibility of a perfect score.

Hauser went out and finished the last 25 cleanly to tie Nissen with 100.

The two then had a shoot-off. Nissen missed a target at the third station and finished with a 24. Hauser again broke all 25 and was crowned event champion.

Nissen earned first place in the varsity division. 

If you've followed Wisconsin youth trapshooting over the last 13 years, you know teams and individuals from southeastern Wisconsin have earned national SCTP titles.

The region annually produces some of the best young trapshooters in the nation, a fact highlighted by the conference results.

Jefferson also won the team event in the varsity division, edging Marquette on a tie-breaker after both broke 490 of 500 targets.

a group of people standing in a grassy field: Jefferson Sportsmens Club Youth Trap Team won first place in the varsity team division at the 2019 SE WI Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships. Team members were Alison Hauser, who shot a 100, Mickenzie Williams (99) and Ashton Anfang, Mitchell Heinzen and Austin Rechlin (97s). © Photo by Brad Patterson Jefferson Sportsmens Club Youth Trap Team won first place in the varsity team division at the 2019 SE WI Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships. Team members were Alison Hauser, who shot a 100, Mickenzie Williams (99) and Ashton Anfang, Mitchell Heinzen and Austin Rechlin (97s).

The Jefferson squad tallied 100 from Hauser, 99 by ladies champion Mickenzie Williams and 97s each from Ashton Anfang, Mitchell Heinzen and Austin Rechlin. 

Marquette was paced by Nissen's 100, followed by 99 by Anthony Giampeitro, 98 by William Stuart, 97 by Jack Cyganiak and 96 by Grant Conlon.

Cudahy, Union Grove and Oconomowoc, respectively, rounded out the top five teams.

Even younger participants scored very high. The junior varsity title was won by David Schiltz of Lake Geneva Badger with a 98 and the intermediate title (for students in grades 6 to 8) was won by Evan Walechka of Jefferson with a 97.

The event, as expected by organizers, coaches and participants, ended up with no shooting accident or injury. More than 50,000 shots were fired at clay pigeons over the two days, said Pat Gerbensky, Waukesha Gun Club manager.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a grass covered field: Members of the Lake Geneva Badger team store their unloaded shotguns between rounds at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club. © Paul A. Smith Members of the Lake Geneva Badger team store their unloaded shotguns between rounds at the 2019 Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trapshooting Conference Championships at Waukesha Gun Club.

Many of the trapshooters will compete later this month at the state SCTP championships and some will also travel to Marengo, Ohio, for the nationals in July.

When the conference reassembles next year for its championships, it's likely to involve even more participants, said Patterson, Milwaukee Lutheran coach who also directed the tournament.

"These kids get it," Patterson said. "It's safe and fun and challenging. And it can be a sport they can enjoy for the rest of their lives."

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Southeastern Wisconsin youth trapshooters keep busting targets and breaking records

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