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Clay Dusters place third at state tournament

Head coach Phil Stuemke expected the Park Rapids Clay Dusters trap-shooting team to contend for the title at Friday's Minnesota State High School League Clay Target State Tournament.

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Posing with the third-place trophy from the Minnesota State High School League Clay Target State tournament were (front from left) Jack Hensel, Blake Johnson, Cole Girtz, Ean Voigt, Arianne Warmbold, Sally Yliniemi; (back) coaches Robin Walsh, Phil Stuemke, Jared Hoefs, Steve Girtz. The Park Rapids Clay Dusters finished third out of 40 teams by hitting 485 out of 500 targets. Submitted photo

Head coach Phil Stuemke expected the Park Rapids Clay Dusters trap-shooting team to contend for the title at Friday’s Minnesota State High School League Clay Target State Tournament.

Park Rapids was in contention to claim the state title before finishing third at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

St. Michael-Albertville repeated as state champs as the five-member team of senior Lane Berning (100), senior Garrett Mourning (99), senior Kyle Dupont (99), sophomore William Rahne (99) and junior Jake Borgen (94) combined to hit 491 out of 500 targets. New Prague and Park Rapids tied for second at 485, but New Prague won the tiebreaker with a high gun of 100 over Park Rapids’ high gun of 99 to claim the runner-up trophy.

Rounding out the 40-team field were Alden-Conger (483), Hibbing (481), Alexandria (480), Champlin Park (479), Fairmont (478), Wayzata (477), Roseau (477), Tri-City United (476), United South Central (474), Cambridge-Isanti (474), Delano (473), Badger-Greenbush-Middle River (473), Hutchinson (472), Owatonna (471), Monticello (470), Bemidji (469), Spring Grove Park (468), Prior Lake (468), Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (466), Perham (465), St. Peter (464), Northfield (463), Lakeville South (463), Marshall (463), Lakeview (462), Mahtomedi (460), Zimmerman (459), Ada-Borup/Norman County West (458), Buffalo (454), Big Lake (454), Rogers (452), Austin (452), East Grand Forks (451), Belle P laine (450), Farmington (447), Willmar (446) and Maple Grove (434).

St. Michael-Albertville entered the state tournament as the No. 1 seed at 492 while Wayzata was second at 491 and Park Rapids was third at 488 following the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League Trap Shooting Championships at Alexandria. This meet is a qualifier for the MSHSL State Tournament.

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Leading Park Rapids were junior Cole Girtz and senior Ean Voigt with 99s, senior Blake Johnson with a 98, junior Jack Hensel with a 97 and junior Sally Yliniemi with a 92. Girtz had rounds of 24, 25, 25 and 25, including a run of 83 in a row. Voigt had rounds of 25, 24, 25 and 25, including 60 in a row. Johnson had rounds of 24, 25, 24 and 25, including 43 in a row. Hensel had rounds of 24, 23, 25 and 25, including 66 in a row. Yliniemi had rounds of 23, 23, 23 and 23 with a run of 12 in a row.

During the team competition, only three of the nearly 300 participants hit a perfect 100. In addition to Berning, New Prague’s Leevi Chandler and Woodrow Glazer were the others. In addition to Girtz and Voigt, seven other competitors hit 99 targets.

In the individual tournament, Girtz tied for 52nd place out of 110 competitors with a 95. Five competitors had a perfect score by hitting 100 targets as Glazer, Mourning and Dupont were joined by Tri-City’s Benjamin Sladek and Annandale’s Jake Mader. Those five shared the state title. Tying for sixth place with 99s were Alexandria’s CJ Schlosser and Erik Knight and Truman’s Zach Jahnz. Those eight earned medals and were named to the Mills Fleet Farm Top-Gun All-State Team.

Girtz, who became the first Park Rapids competitor to qualify for the individual state tournament, was one of 54 who qualified for both the team and individual competitions. There were 14 competitors that hit 99 targets, 12 that hit 98, 10 that hit 97, 10 that hit 96 and 18 that hit 95 in addition to the five perfect scores during the individual tournament.

“I knew they were going to do well,” said Stuemke. “It was a lot of fun. They all did a great job. I’m very proud of them. To finish in third place in only our fourth year is excellent.”

This marked the fifth year of the MSHSL State Tournament. In 2012, the MSHSL became the first high school activities association in the nation to provide support and recognition for clay target. The first state tournament was held in 2014. Trap shooting continues to be the fastest growing sport in the nation. Minnesota started with three schools and 30 student athletes in 2008 and had 349 schools and 11,936 student athletes this season.

“This League continues to be one of the largest high school sports in the state of Minnesota,” said Jim Sable, President of the MNSHSCTL. “Such high participation shows the continued demand for alternative high school activities related to Minnesota’s longstanding outdoor traditions.”

Park Rapids competed at state for the third year in a row. The Clay Dusters finished second among Class 3A schools at Alexandria in 2016 with a 469 and placed 24th at state with a 442 as New Prague won the state title with a 480. Last season, the Clay Dusters finished first among Class 3A schools with a 477 and placed 12th at state with a 455. St. Michael-Albertville won the 2017 state title with a 480. Park Rapids was the runner-up in the Class 3A division at this year’s meet at Alexandria.

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In the two previous state team tournaments, Girtz hit 91 targets in 2016 and 98 targets to tie for fifth place out of 200 competitors last season, Voigt hit 90 targets in 2016, Johnson hit 96 targets to tie for 11th place last season and Yliniemi hit 83 targets last season.

For the first time, there will be a national high school tournament July 12-15 at Mason, Michigan. Park Rapids will have six individual competitors as Girtz, Voigt, Johnson, Arianne Warmbold, Kaiden Walsh and Logan Nevala were invited to participate in that tournament, which will feature the top 2,000 high school students in the nation. Voigt, Johnson, Warmbold, Walsh and Nevala will also compete in the team tournament with Girtz serving as an alternate.

“I’m very proud to be the head coach. I’ve got a whole team of good competitors. These kids work really hard and I’m fortunate to have superb volunteer coaches. A lot of the credit has to go to those coaches (Jared Hoefs, Burt Fosse, Steve Girtz, Dan Strickler, Robin Walsh, Jodi Walsh and Todd Yliniemi). We also get great support from the parents and the community,” said Stuemke. “We have the opportunity to continue to excel next year.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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