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For this River Falls High School sport, it’s fire away

Members of the new RFHS trap shooting team are showing at a Hudson Conference Shoot. From left are Mike Melser, Alex Larson, Colton Jones, Matt Passofaro and Robbie Rowe. The trap shooting team finished its first season in June. The new season will start next March.(Submitted photos)

There’s a new sport at the high school that started and ended its first season with a bang.

The RFHS trap shooting team’s inaugural year went very well, and head coach Ryan Pechacek is eager for another good year.

“We just wrapped up in June. We took third place in our conference out of six teams,” Pechacek said. “So the kids did a really nice job.”

Especially as many of the 23 students on the co-ed team had never shot trap before joining the team.

Eight experienced team members were chosen to compete at the varsity level. The rest shoot for junior varsity.

Varsity members include: Colton Jones, Alex Larson, Gregg Matheson, Mike Melser, Matt Passofaro, Casey Rach, Robbie Rowe, Justin Warner, Matt Williamson and Adam Yunker.

JV includes: Andrew Armitage, Caleb Conklin, Meagan Davis, Erik Eaton, Lucas Fesser, Ethan Larson, Riese Nelson, Michaela Oellrich, Joe Peichel, Jake Schlaeppi, Dominic Schultz and Alec Williams.

During its six- to seven-week season, the trap-shooting team met at 4 p.m. every Thursday at the River Falls Sportsmen’s Club, 1130 Rifle Range Road, town of Kinnickinnic.

The team met at 4 p.m. to give students time to go home and get their guns and ammunition, which they were not allowed to bring to school.

Team members are required to have passed a hunter’s safety course, and must bring their own guns and ammunition. Pechacek said most shoot with a 12-gauge or 20-gauge.

For safety, students must keep the action open except when they are shooting, and can only load one shell at a time.

They can, however, keep their ammunition with them in a special carrying case. They are also always required to wear eye and ear protection.

At practices, team members lined up and took turns shooting, trying to hit 25 clay targets, flung into the air by a voice-activated trap machine. Each student is allowed one shell per target.

Last year, every time the students were shooting, they were competing. They did “virtual competitions” with other teams in their conference, the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) northwestern conference.

“So they just shot their 25 shots, or they could practice a round and then shoot for score,” Pechacek said. “I would enter all the scores in on the SCTP website.”

Pechacek put top five best scores from varsity, and from JV on the site. They were compared to other teams’ scores and results were posted later.

Next year Pechacek hopes to include practice days to allow the students to work on their shooting outside of competition.

“It’s just like any other sport,” Pechacek said. “The more you practice, the better you get.”

Pechacek said the team was very fortunate that several experienced gun club members would take the time to help coach the team members, offering tips and advice -- especially for the students who hadn’t shot trap before.

Sportsmen’s Club secretary Belinda Hopp is impressed with the way the club members stepped up to help the students.

“The one thing that is really fun and really great to watch is how you have the older generation, the men and women ... in their 70s, coaching the younger generation,” Hopp said. “It’s really neat to see these kids learning something that they can be good at their entire life.”

For the complete story, see the Aug. 7 print issue of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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