Connect with us
Dacotah Bank


Aberdeen hosting annual state clay target tournament

Iszy Helm, of the Aberdeen Christian High School trap shooting team, center, fires on a target during practice Thursday evening at the Aberdeen Gun Club. Helm and her teammates will be competing this weekend at the South Dakota State High School Clay Target League State Tournament at the club south of Aberdeen. Photo by John Davis taken 6/9/2022

More than 850 of the best high school shooters will be in Aberdeen this weekend competing in the Fifth Annual South Dakota High School Clay Target League State Tournament at the Aberdeen Gun Club.

The clay target tourney starts at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday and will feature boys and girls in multiple divisions. The skeet portion of the tourney gets started today. There is no cost to attend and spectators are welcome.

To see Saturday’s schedule, click on the following link:

To see Sunday’s schedule, click on the following link:

Aberdeen has hosted every state tourney since the club sport’s inception and will continue to do so for the next several years. The Hub City has several factors that make it an ideal location, according to Joe Courneya, State Director the South Dakota Clay Target League

“The trap range has to have enough shooting facilities to shoot at,” Courneya said, also pointing out adequate parking and vendor space. “Aberdeen has a camping area so some of our families that travel from a distance may pull a camper over and stay right on the grounds for the weekend.”

This year’s state tournament will feature 860 shooters and there are currently 1,410 high school students involved in the sport. Courneya expects a few more schools to join the league next year.

“We had a little lull there during Covid of course, that set everything back, but our numbers are going up each year,” Courneya said “I think the goal would be to have every school offer it as a spring athletic program, just like they do with track or softball or baseball. Of course, it all depends on access to a range, because you need a shooting range to go to with this sport.”

While some may think that the sport is dangerous, especially in today’s climate, those involved in trapshooting say it’s just the opposite.

“Guns can be very dangerous as we know from everything that we’re seeing in the news,” said Aberdeen Central coach Brennan Goehring, “but our goal here is to give them a better appreciation of what guns can do and how to safely use them.”

Aberdeen Christian coach Jason Haskell said there are far less injuries involved in trapshooting than there are in other sports.

“Any other sport you’ve got rolled ankles, you’ve got jammed fingers, you’ve got torn ACLs, you’ve got all sorts of stuff and none of that happens in trapshooting,” Haskell said. “It’s also safe in another regard which I think has as longer impact on our society as a whole. It brings an awareness to guns and gives a familiarity to kids to understand what it can and can’t do, and the ramifications of it being used wrong.”

He said a gun is really no different than any other piece of sports equipment.

“The fact of the matter is, in the right hands, with the right intent, it’s just another tool that can used in a sport just like anything else,” Haskell said.

Aberdeen Christian High School trap shooting coach Jason Haskell, center, talks with Jonas Kuntz, right, during practice Thursday evening at the Aberdeen Gun Club. The Knights will be among the schools competing this weekend at the South Dakota State High School Clay Target League State Tournament at the club south of Aberdeen. Photo by John Davis taken 6/9/2022

Trapshooting competition takes place throughout the spring on a virtual level. Shooters take aim at 50 targets and scores are then sent in and tabulated against other schools. Complete results can be found at

The top shooter in the state so far this season has been Katie Welker a senior who competes for Winner-Colome. She has nailed 246 out of the 250 targets she has shot at so far this season.

The state tournament is different than the regular season in the fact that all shooting will take place in person and all competitors will shoot 100 targets instead of 50.

Here is a look at each of the three Aberdeen trapshooting programs:


The Golden Eagles feature a young squad this season led by captains Garrett Jorgensen, Gordon Kopecky and Austin Sprinkel.

“I was really proud of how our older shooters and some of our captains kept the waters calm and kept mentoring those younger shooters that now are really seeing their scores improve,” said Central coach Brennan Goehring.

Addison Ward is currently the only girl in the program, but possesses the same traits as a captain, according to Goehring.

“Not only is she a phenomenal shooter, but she would be one of those leaders, that even those she doesn’t have the captain’s role, she definitely exemplifies all those traits that we’re looking for in a future captain,” Goehring said.

He said it has been rewarding to watch his young shooters progress and learn more about the sport.

“We focused on safety and fun above everything else, but the stats and stuff kind of come with that,” Goehring said. “Every year around this time, you peak and we see a lot of those ‘ah-ha’ moments, especially out of the younger ones.”

Goehring said the goal for the state tourney is not so much to beat the other competitors as much as it is to just keep improving.

“One of the things that we always try to do is beat ourselves. We want to try to have PRs across the board this time of the year at our state tournament,” Goehring said. “We just want to see that growth. We’re looking forward to seeing some of our best scores, yet.”


The Cavaliers feature one of the top shooters in the state in freshman Zane Backous, who has hit 242 of his 250 targets on the season. Paul Gutenkauf is also a standout shooter who is one of several members statewide who has hit 50 straight targets.

Reese Shock is also another key shooter for the Cavaliers, who do not have a senior on the squad. Addison Cassidy and Claire Johnson are the lone girls on the team.

Roncalli coach Cory Backous said the goal for the team is to do their best this weekend at the state tournament.

“Just for kids to do their personal best at each one of them and let the cards fall where they may at that point,” Coach Backous said.

He said he told his shooters that the atmosphere during the state tourney will be much different than a regular-season shoot done virtually, noting that weather and wind conditions can vary from location to location on a given night.

“Now that we’re going to stand on the line at the same time as other kids from the state of South Dakota, now we’re comparing apples to apples,” Coach Backous said. “Now’s the time to find out how much of a competitor you are.”

Backous feels that the mental part of the sport is just as important as the physical aspect of trapshooting. That could come into play during the tournament with many more competitors and spectators present than normal.

“This game is as much or more mental than it is physical. Each one of these kids that’s a top shooter has the ability to break every target that comes out in front of them,” he said. “There’s really not a lot of added pressure. It’s just who can focus for a hundred targets the best, in my opinion.”


While the Knights have had a program for four seasons, they are relatively young this year.

“We’re still in this developing our program phase,” said Christian coach Jason Haskell.

The squad is led by Chandler Helm, Joshua Schauer and Garrett Pearson on the boys’ side and Ruth Hulscher on the girls’ side.

Haskell said the state tournament is an all day event similar to a track meet.

“It’s a long, full busy day. It starts right away at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Haskell said. “It’s kind of like a track meet where you sit around and do nothing and then when it’s your turn you go like crazy, and then you sit around do nothing until it’s your turn again and then you can stop, waiting for the end of the day.”

Haskell’s daughter Hallie finished second in the Novice Division in 2019.

He said the goal for shooters this weekend is to focus on their own abilities more so than trying to beat competitors from other schools.

“For most of the kids it’s not about beating this kid from that school or another kid from a different school,” Haskell said. “It’s about shooting better than they did the last time they were out.”

Purchase a Photo

Browse By Category

Browse By Month

More in Trapshooting

Dacotah Bank