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HS trap shooters take aim at state tournament as sport continues its rapid growth

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Several hundred of the best high school trap shooters in Minnesota competed in the second State Clay Target Tournament Saturday at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

Lakeville South High School beat out 30 other teams to win the team competition, while Fairmont High School's Bryan Grotte took first place in the individual competition out of a field of 100 competitors, Minnesota State High School Clay Target League says.

Minnesota is the first and only state high school athletic association in the country to recognize and support such a tournament, the league notes, where shooters fire shotguns at clay discs that are flung into the air by a machine (the discs resemble birds flying away, so trapshooting is often used by bird hunters to practice for hunting season.)

The league is co-ed and participants are required to obtain a state Firearm Safety Training Certificate, a news release notes.

The league has "exploded in growth" in just a few years, the Pioneer Press reports. From 2001 (when the league began) to 2008, there were just 30 athletes competing from three schools, the league's website notes, but by 2009 there were were 60 athletes from six schools, jumping to 1,715 athletes from 100 schools in 2012, and then 6,100 athletes from 275 schools last year.

This year there were 268 teams with 8,600 participants shooting at 165 gun ranges across the state, The Associated Press reports, and hundreds of interested athletes were turned away because of limited time and space at local ranges.

These participating numbers are comparable to those of other high school sports, the Pioneer Press notes, and now Minnesota's league, created by Jim Sable as a way to increase interest in the sport, is becoming a model for other leagues around the country – Sable has launched leagues in Wisconsin and North Dakota, while 30 other states have inquired about creating leagues of their own, the AP notes.

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League may possibly become a "farm league" for Olympic hopefuls to hone their skills, the Pioneer Press says, noting last year, four shooters scored a perfect 100 out of 100.

Olympic shooting is the sixth most medal-winning sport in United States Olympic history, according to USA Shooting.

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