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TRAP SHOOTING: Clay Crushers make history as Minnesota's first-ever homeschooled trap team

Members and students of Heritage Homeschool Co-op formed the first-ever homeschooled trap team in the state and successfully completed their first season.

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The South Central Beltrami County Clay Crushers, which is believed to be the first-ever homeschooled trap team in Minnesota, recently completed its first season.
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BEMIDJI — Thanks to a group dubbed the Clay Crushers, Minnesota now has what is believed to be the first-ever homeschooled trap shooting team in the state.

Officially called the South Central Beltrami County Clay Crushers, members and students of Heritage Homeschool Co-op in Bemidji have created the historic group. They are registered with the USA Clay Target Homeschool League — a new addition to the USA Clay Target League in 2021 — and recently completed their first season.

The goal of this new branch is to provide members of the homeschool community an opportunity to start their own local league virtually from anywhere in the U.S. and was developed specifically for homeschool associations, organizations, student-athletes and their families.

According to Eric Ramsdell, the coach for the Clay Crushers, the league started with the Heritage Homeschool Co-op in Bemidji, where a group of 21 families gets together every other week for education classes and to socialize.

“We had a number of kids in our homeschool group who showed interest in shooting trap and it just so happened we had enough to form a team,” Ramsdell said. “We reached out to the USA Clay Target Homeschool League to start our own team so they can spend more time with the kids they see at the co-op and grow in friendship.”

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Starting during the spring season in early April, the trap team rounded up eight members. Two of them, brothers Joshua and Jonathan Johnson, even took first at the 2022 National Tournament held in early July.

Joshua won First Overall Trap, First Conference Season Average, and First Place Varsity Male at Nationals. His younger brother, Jonathan, won First Place Junior Varsity Male at Nationals.

“Everyone did phenomenal, it was just amazing that our first year we had two kids take home national championship awards, first place out of the whole nation,” Ramsdell said. “They worked really hard and improved a lot, one of them got a perfect score of 25 out of 25.”

Although the homeschooled students in the area also have the option to shoot for the Bemidji High School trap team, some states have laws that restrict homeschool participation in school-organized youth activities, according to Josh Kroells, operations manager of the USA Clay Target League.

Kroells also added that those obstacles deprive some youth of important opportunities to socialize, build relationships and develop a sense of community and teamwork.

The trap shooting league is also one of the safest sports for athletes, according to Ramsdell.

“It’s a very safe sport, I know it's all shooting, but there's safety training (the students) have to go through to participate. They either have to complete an official Minnesota’s hunters safety course or else they have to take a four-hour course through the league,” Ramsdell said. “They learn a lot about being safe with and around firearms and the league stresses safety, fun and marksmanship.”

Along with the Clay Crushers, Ramsdell hopes more homeschool groups look into the opportunities the homeschool trap league has to offer and possibly create more area leagues in the future.

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“I don’t think a lot of people know about (the homeschool league), but it would be really fun for the kids to have more local competition and that type of thing,” he said. “I know there’s a number of other homeschool groups in the area and it would be really cool if they got together and made more teams because these kids had a lot of fun together and every single one of them showed improvement in their marksmanship as well.”

Maggi is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on outdoor and human interest stories. Raised in Aitkin, Minnesota, Maggi is a graduate of Bemidji State University's class of 2022 with a degree in Mass Communication.
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