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Clay Dusters qualify for state tournament

The Park Rapids Clay Dusters trap-shooting team relied on depth to qualify for the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament for the third year in a row.

State qualifiers
Representing the Park Rapids Clay Dusters at the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament, which will be held Friday (June 22) at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake, will be (from left) Jack Hensel, Sally Yliniemi, Ean Voigt, Blake Johnson and Cole Girtz. Vance Carlson / Enterprise

The Park Rapids Clay Dusters trap-shooting team relied on depth to qualify for the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament for the third year in a row.

Park Rapids finished second in the Class 3A division and third overall out of all nine divisions at the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League Trap Shooting Championships at Alexandria on June 13 with 488 points out of a possible 500. That trailed only Wayzata’s 491 and was ahead of Hibbing’s 484 in the 43-team, 1,010-shooter Class 3A competition. This event is a qualifier for the MSHSL state tournament. The top-40 teams from the nine divisions qualified for the state competition. A total of 8,100 competitors from 325 teams competed in the nine-day event, which ran from June 11-19 at the Alexandria Shooting Park.

Cole Girtz tied for first among the 8,100 competitors with a perfect score by hitting all 100 targets. Wayzata’s Jack Sueker, Monticello’s Ben Safar in Class 4A, Lakeview’s Logan Gile in Class 5A, Roseau’s Jonathan Hosaluk in Class 6A, and St. Michael-Albertville’s Kyle Dupont and Mahtomedi’s Shane Sullivan in Class 7A also hit all 100 targets.  

Arianne Warmbold was the top female and tied seven others for fifth place overall in the Class 3A division with a 98 while Jack Hensel and Sally Yliniemi tied 10 others at 97 for 13th place. Nolan Pederson tied for 24th place with a 96 to round out Park Rapids’ runner-up team score on June 13.

Also hitting at least 90 targets on Varsity for Park Rapids were Blake Johnson (tied for 35th at 95), Andrew Bittmann (tied for 35th at 95), Zoe Flath (tied for 52nd at 94), Ean Voigt (tied for 76th at 93), Logan Nevala (tied for 76th at 93), Carl Just (tied for 99th at 92), Cole Bethel (91) and Owen Wagner (90). The other Varsity competitors for the Clay Dusters were Tayden George (88), Kaiden Walsh (87), Samantha Yliniemi (87), Brianna Weckwerth (86), Ty Aukes (85), Sam Belina (85), Isaac Hoverson (83) and Megan Offerdahl (68). There were 396 Varsity competitors in Class 3A.

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Brendan Landstrom (92), Taylor Edelman (85), Bode Lee (84), Nick Michaelson (82), Lee Edelman (80), Shawn Ohm (79), Kody Mead (75) and Josh Crandall (71) competed in the Junior Varsity division while Jacob Zinniel (77) and Allie Edelman (74) competed in the Novice division for Park Rapids.

In the overall standings, St. Michael-Albertville took first with a 492 while Wayzata was second and Park Rapids took third. Rounding out the top-15 teams were Lakeview (487), Badger-Greenbush-Middle River (487), Alexandria (487), Bemidji (487), New Prague (486), Alden-Conger (486), Marshall (484), Hibbing (484), Roseau (483), United South Central (483), Lakeville South (483) and Fairmont (483).

Representing the Clay Dusters at the 40-team MSHSL state tournament, which will be held Friday (June 22) at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake, will be Girtz, Voigt, Hensel, Johnson and Sally Yliniemi. Those five were chosen based on their averages during the regular season. Girtz also became Park Rapids’ first competitor to qualify as an individual for the MSHSL state tournament by finishing among the top-100 during the regular season. Girtz had a 23.90 average out of 25.00 in five conference meets to tie for the No. 39 spot. Voigt had a 23.40 average, Hensel had a 23.10 average, Johnson had a 22.60 average and Yliniemi had a 21.40 average.

“We did really well the entire season, so I knew we were going to make it. I had faith in my teammates. In the big competitions, everyone seems to dial it up a notch,” said Girtz, who qualified for his third straight state tournament as a team member. “I expect us to place at least in the top-5. We’re going to do the best we can and aim for No. 1. If we shoot the best we can, we can’t be disappointed. I’m aiming to shoot a perfect 100 and then shoot another perfect 100. That’s the plan.”

“We always seem to shoot well in Alexandria. We all had pretty good averages all year and I thought if we all shot our average, we’d make it to state,” said Johnson, who was a member of last year’s state team. “We push each other to be better. I know we’re going to shoot well. I’m hoping we miss under 10 birds as a team.”

“I was pretty confident we had what it took. We get in a rhythm and work well together and it clicks,” said Voigt, who was a member of Park Rapids’ state team in 2016. “I think we’ll do pretty good. lf we get in a rhythm and have a good day, we should have a pretty good outcome.”

“We did pretty good in conference, so I thought we had a good chance,” said Yliniemi, who also was a member of last year’s state team. “I’m going to do the best I can. Hopefully we’ll do good.”

“I thought we had a pretty good chance to make it. We have a lot of close averages and good competition (within the team),” said Hensel, who qualified for his first state tournament. “I think we’ll do pretty good. I’m hoping to shoot at least another 97.”

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Park Rapids 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 at Alexandria with a 477 and placed 12th at state with a 455. St. Michael-Albertville won the 2017 state title with a 480.

“There were some very good schools there, but I fully expected us (to qualify for state). Since our spring competition ended, all our student athletes were shooting better and better at practice. They showed up at the top of their game. They came to kill clays and they did. I knew they were going to do well, but I love the fact that they surprised me with how well they shot,” said volunteer coach Jared Hoefs. “This is our third trip to state and I expect us to improve. I know we’ll easily get in the top-5. They’re focused and they want to be the best. I expect us to win it.”

“I was very confident. It didn’t surprise me at all how well they did. These are great kids who are very competitive and they’ve been progressing and getting stronger and stronger in practice,” said Park Rapids head coach Phil Stuemke. “I know they will excel again (at state). I just want them to shoot up to their potential and enjoy what they have earned. The competition is going to be very strong, but we proved at Alexandria that we are one of the best teams in the state. I truly believe that we can win it.”

Clay Dusters team
The Park Rapids Clay Dusters qualified for the MSHSL State Tournament for the third year in a row by finishing second in the Class 3A division at the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League Trap Shooting Championships at Alexandria on June 13. Submitted photo

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