The St. Michael-Albertville trapshooting team had by all accounts an amazing first season. The team, which received school board approval in the spring of 2011, hit the ground running, or shooting some would say, the first week of April.
Some of the kids had very limited shooting experience prior to joining the team but that didn't stop the team from taking 1st place in both state and conference.
"It's a pretty solid team," team coordinator Joyce Olson said earlier this week. "Everyone involved is pretty passionate about the sport."
Thirty-five students in grades 9-12 came out for the sport this spring including just two girls. The prerequisite was clear: students must have their own firearm and also have their firearm safety certification.
For the last ten weeks the team has practiced one evening a week at the Crow River Sportsmen Club. "The Friends of the NRA has also been a significant and generous support and donor," Olson said. The Friends of the NRA donated a majority of the shells used during the season.
"Josh [Novicky] had been participating in the summer trapshooting program since he was 12 and was excited to do this," his mom Carol Novicky said. "This is these kids' niche and Scott [Berning] is such a role model."
Berning along with eight others helped coach the team their inaugural season. "These coaches just wanted to help even if they didn't have kids on the team," Novicky said.
Coaches in addition to Berning included: Shawn Dutton, Dennis Berning, Al Cleveland, Larry Lindahl, David Olson, Alex Steffens and Ted Steffens.
"We have a tremendous coaching staff," Berning said at the team's end of the year party. "If you add up the years of experience between all the coaches you'd have 150 years of experience. It was really important when we started out that we assemble a really fine coaching staff and a good relationship with the school district."
"These kids are respectful kids who worked hard," Berning added noting that even other teams and parents at the state tournament complimented the teens on their courtesy and respect.
While nearly a dozen of the kids had significant shooting experience or participated in the summer trapshooting program there were still team members who had little to no experience. That didn't matter.
"We were pleasantly surprised by the kids who'd never shot before," Berning said, smiling.
The team had already won first place in their conference of seven other schools going into te state tournament in Alexandria last weekend. Over 57 schools were represented with nearly 1000 students.
"We knew going into the tournament that we had strong shooters but we also knew we had strong competition," Olson said.
The STMA team did not disappoint or even falter against the strong competition. They not only took first place in both Varsity and Junior Varsity, but shooters from both were awarded 2nd place in individual awards as well.
The top five Junior Varsity scores came from Wade Gammell (91), Matt Nielsen (89), Allie Steffens (87), Noah Mills (87) and Josh Novicky (83). Wade Gammell and Allie Steffens took the 2nd place male/female individual awards. " Wade [Gammell] earned his in what has been described as a phenomenal shoot-off between four shooters who were all tied at 91," said Olson.
The top five Varsity scoress came from Tyler Ellison (98), Tommy Mavencamp (97), Colten Schoen (97), Emma Olson (96) and Max Rooney (95). Tyler Ellison and Emma Olson took the 2nd place male/female individual awards.
With only one senior on the team, more great scores and maybe even more medals and trophies are expected next year.