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Trap shooting on the rise: Lumberjack Invite brings teams together for fifth annual event

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Blackduck's Karly Pitzel fires a shot at a clay target during a session at the Lumberjack Invitational on Saturday at Northland Regional Shooting Sports Park outside of Bemidji. (Austin Monteith | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- For once, the Bemidji High School trap shooting team had some company for its competition Saturday.

In a sport where teams are accustomed to competing remotely, 14 schools from across northwest Minnesota were represented at the fifth annual Lumberjack Invitational at Northland Regional Shooting Sports Park, just northwest of Bemidji.

“The way that the trap shooting program works is our kids never travel anywhere else to shoot, other than the Minnesota state high school shoot, which we will go to in June,” said Lumberjacks head coach David Smith. “Most of these kids don’t understand each week when we’re competing against other teams, there’s not another team on the field. That other team is competing at their own home club… The feeling of competition isn’t always really there.”

That was certainly not the case Saturday with more than 300 shooters, boys and girls, in action at the meet, including 92 from Bemidji and 23 from Blackduck.

The Lumberjack trap team has grown in each of its five years competing in the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League.

“It’s really taken off,” Smith said. “There’s no way to explain.”

“In Blackduck we’ve seen a lot of popularity with it,” said Blackduck head coach Shannon Eickstadt. “We started out five years ago with nine kids. We’ve had as many as 28 on our team. We’re at 23 right now, and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about it. It’s a fabulous sport. You don’t have to be athletic to do it. Anyone can shoot, anyone really can.”

In fact, trap shooting is the fastest growing sport in Minnesota. With around 11,000 athletes statewide, that’s more than hockey and a number of other sports.

“For our Bemidji squad, I think a lot of it is just the fact that it’s an alternative sport than any other type of team sport,” Smith said. “... It’s not a traditional sport. It’s something new. And maybe because it involves a firearm, maybe it attracts more people. I don’t know.”

Mondays are the usual competition nights for the Lumberjacks, while the Drakes shoot on Sundays. Teams across the state turn in scores each week, and rarely have the opportunity to interact with other teams outside of the state tournament.

Blackduck has been to all five Lumberjack Invitationals as the event has become a staple of the trap shooting calendar for teams in the region. It also makes for a perfect warm-up event ahead of June’s Trap Shooting Championship in Alexandria, which is the qualifying tournament for the MSHSL State Tournament in Prior Lake.

“It’s a great tune-up for Alexandria,” said Eickstadt. “This is typically the only tournament, beside Alexandria, that we go to. Last year we did well enough in Alexandria to qualify as a team to go down to Prior Lake… I’m hoping to do the same thing this year.”

Alexandria wins meet, Bemidji takes 2nd

The Lumberjacks came up just short for the Lumberjacks Invitational title as Alexandria finished with 466 points on the day and Bemidji took runner-up with 457.

A pair of Alexandria shooters also earned high gun with Jeremy Knight winning in the boys division and Kallista Roers in the girls. A pair of Lumberjacks finished as runners-up for high gun honors with Shelby Ewert taking second for the girls and Nic Geiger for the boys.

The top five shooters that made up the score for the Lumberjacks included Nick Peterson, Geiger, Blake Goplin and Shelby Ewert, with Tate Hammitt and Matt Norgaard tying for fifth. Peterson, Geiger and Goplin also each recorded rounds of “25 Straight” during the day.

The Bemidji junior varsity team earned the JV title by finishing with 389 points, nine ahead of runner-up Walker. The top five shooters for the BHS JV were Avery LaZella, Tristan Secor, Berkly Ewert, Megan Roth and Lyla Stout.

The Lumberjacks novice team finished runner-up in their division to Roseau with the Rams edging Bemidji 310-282 for first. The top five shooters for the Bemidji novice team were Samantha Pereira, Hannah Olson, Kendra Willberg, Katelyn Carbowski and Logan Olson.

Blackduck placed ninth with 377 points.

Bemidji will resume regular league play Monday, May 21, for its final competition week.

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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