Mt. Pleasant High School adds trap shooting to athletic options
A project two years in the making came to an end for John Klopfenstein recently but the end was actually the beginning of a new club sport at Mt. Pleasant High School, with Klopfenstein leading the way as head coach.
In addition to the traditional 'stick and ball' sports, students at MPHS now have the opportunity to participate in a sport that is quickly gaining ground throughout Iowa – trap shooting.
Mt. Pleasant joins Fort Madison, Muscatine and Harmony as schools in southeast Iowa which feature a trap team, four of 60 programs statewide with around 1,300 participants, according to Ben Berka, Iowa DNR Shooting Sports Coordinator, nine more than in 2010. Van Buren High School started a skeet shooting team this school year, though skeet is a variation of trap shooting.
Klopfenstein became involved in starting the club nearly two years ago after seeing a need for youth shooting in the area and for the shooting to be done safely.
“I'm very safety conscious and good safety around firearms because we do live in a rural community which is exposed to a lot of those firearms. And what a better way to introduce young people to the shooting sports than this,” said Klopfenstein. "It's a really safe sport – I'm really excited about it because it gives these young kids some responsibility and some initiative to keep their grades up. It builds discipline, confidence and safety."
The team, which began practice on April 1 and had its first competitive shoot on April 28 in Montrose against Fort Madison, currently features 19 participants, one shy of the 20 Klopfenstein would like to have for four full squads on the trap field for competitions. On the trap field, shooters enter positions one through five, 16 yards behind the trap house; each shooter will shoot one 'bird' at a time until each person has shot five 'birds'. In addition to the shooters being on the line during competition, a safety officer and scorer also stand on the line; coaches are not allowed on the lines during a tournament.
One round is 25 birds per team with each hit counting towards the team's total of 200 registered targets hit needed to qualify for the state shoot, held June 3-4 in Cedar Falls. Though most tournaments are 50 bird tournaments, Klopfenstein said the May 7 tournament in St. Paul will be a 100 bird tournament.
"I'm wanting every one of the people on this team to go to the state championship, no matter what level they're shooting at," said Klopfenstein.
Klopfenstein noted that the range of experience shooting varies from member to member on the team, with some of the kids never shooting a shotgun before joining the team. Along with the range of experience, the gauge of gun used depends on the comfort level of the individual, with some using 12 gauge shotguns while the rest use 20 gauges, varying from a hunting gun to an over/under.
Mt. Pleasant participates in the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), which began in 2006 and features teams from grade school through high school; in Iowa, the SCTP is administered by the Iowa DNR. The league has over 100 local shoots throughout the state during the spring season and so far during the 2011 season, has certified nearly 100 new coaches. SCTP currently is not sanctioned by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and there are no future plans to sanction the program, according to Berka.
In addition to the SCTP, there is also a straight high school division which began over 25 years ago; Harmony High School's trap shooting program participates in the high school division.
Along with four volunteer assistant coaches, Klopfenstein noted the extensive help that comes from parent involvement with the team.
"We have a lot of parents that are involved with this – not just coaching but helping on the committee. A lot of people are helping because their kids are out here on the trap field," said Klopfenstein. "Mike Vens, my assistant head coach, he has no kids on this team but it's something he enjoys and something he wanted to do."
In addition to constantly stressing safety, Klopfenstein said that none of the firearms are allowed on school property at any time.
"That is a very strict rule throughout the state in this program. A lot of the schools will let them use a school vehicle like a bus [but] this is extremely safety oriented. It's just drilled into their heads and we've had zero problems so far," said Klopfenstein.
Winfield-Mt. Union is expected to become the next local school with a trap shooting team starting during the 2011-2012 school year, according to Klopfenstein.
"This fills the niche between the ones who aren't athletes but still want to be a part of the school and active," said Klopfenstein. "They're not in anything else but they love to shoot."