The Merrill High School trap team will hit the range this season with 19 shooters in grades 8-12. The Bluejays are in a new conference this year, the NWCTC North, competing against Phelps, Laona, Lakeland, Northland Pines, Three Lakes, Crandon and Tomahawk.
Many schools have added the sport in recent years, leading to a conference restructuring, noted Merrill coach Dave Lepak.
This is Merrill’s fifth year in the league, sanctioned by the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), and the third year as a Merrill High School varsity lettering sport.
The season starts next week and runs for seven weeks, during which teams compete head-to-head in virtual scoring. The Bluejays will shoot most of their rounds each week at their home range, the Lincoln Gun Club in the town of Corning, while their opponents will also shoot at their own home range. Scores are then submitted to the SCTP, which compiles the dual meet score as well as keeping a tally of each individual shooter’s scores. The team does travel to some invitationals during the season as well.
The season culminates in a two-day state meet, which determines both team and individual place winners.
Merrill is coming off a good 2016 season in which they placed third overall in their division.
While the Merrill team is made up of mostly boys, it’s a co-ed sport and two girls are on the team this year. Some of the shooters bring a great deal of competitive experience to this season. Merrill will look to veteran trap shooters Cody Vonderheid, Brody Zocher, Eli Heimerl and Hugh Hanig to lead the varsity scoring.
“Our top shooters are shooting 23-25 every time they go out,” Lepak said.
Merrill will field both a varsity and junior varsity team this season. Members must have one year of SCTP competition under their belts to qualify for the varsity team.
In SCTP, scores can be compared across the nation and individual shooters can see their national ranking. Those scores can also help shooters qualify for the U.S. Olympic team or go on to a college trap team.