The Merrill Bluejay trap team wrapped up another successful season, finishing fourth in the NWCTC North Conference with several shooters landing near the top of the leaderboards.
In competition against conference rivals, the Bluejays’ varsity and JV teams were both 4-3 in the seven-week season. Varsity was a 4-1 before losing the last two shoots of the season to Crandon and Tomahawk.
“I think it went well,” coach Dave Lepak said of this season. “We were right in the lead throughout the first half. One or two bad scores will knock you down.”
Merrill placed four shooters in the top 20 of the conference varsity leaderboard. Senior Brody Zocher placed third in conference with a score of 160 (out of a possible 175) and the highest run of anyone in conference with 100. He also shot three perfect rounds out of seven on the season. Just one bird behind Zocher in sixth place was Senior Cody Vonderheid with 159 and a run-up of 69. Senior Hugh Hanig, who shot the whole season with a cast on his broken foot, placed 12th with a score of 155 and a run of 65. Wyatt Koehler also cracked the top 20 with a 17th place finish at 151 with a run of 46. The varsity team felt the loss of Eli Heimerl, who missed the season due to a shoulder injury.
With scores rivaling their varsity counterparts, Merrill had a strong trio of shooters at the top of the conference junior varsity leaderboard. Nicholas Holz finished in second place with a score of 153 and a run of 70 (including two perfect rounds). Zach Iribarran was just a tick behind in third with an identical 153 but a run score of 69 (including one perfect round). Brandon Stolz finished fourth in JV with a 148/47.
The performance of the junior varsity shooters bodes well for the team’s future, Lepak said.
“I think we’ll be competing right up there for first next year,” he said. The JV squad did really well.”
The trap team was expanded this season to include eighth graders, which attracted a pair of rookie shooters who made great improvement over the season, Lepak noted. Brayton Brown and Cameron Stadler finished with scores of 123 and 115, respectively. Next year the team will be open to seventh graders as well.
“Cameron is really consistent now in the 20s. He’s going to be a good shot,” Lepak said. “Brayton came in a good shot and has continued to shoot well.”
The team attended the Northern Wisconsin SCTP Shoot in Eau Claire on May 11. Out of 100 rounds, Koehler and Hanig were Merrill’s top shooters, tied at 94.
The Merrill Bluejays as a team will cap off the season at the state meet in Rome, Wis., on June 24. While team practices are over, shooters will stay sharp in the summer league on Wednesdays at the sponsoring Lincoln Gun Club.
In its third year as a varsity high school sport, the Bluejay trap team fielded 17 shooters. Members who competed at both the conference and state shoots at the varsity level will receive an MHS varsity letter. Those who shot perfect scores during the season receive a patch.
The team’s three seniors – Hanig, Vonderheid and Zocher – have all been with the program since its beginning when they were sophomores. Hanig and Zocher both admitted to shooting sub-teens in their first year, but progressed over their high school careers.
“We’ve gotten to be a lot better shooters,” Hanig said, adding that he’ll continue in the summer league and beyond high school. “This is a sport I’ll be engaged in for the rest of my life,” he said.
Zocher has come a long way as well, putting up a perfect score of 50 in the last meet of his senior season.
“Last week was the best I’ve done,” he said.
The high school trap team program in Wisconsin is sanctioned by the Scholastic Clay Target Program. Because of increased interest in the sport, conferences will be realigned again next year. Merrill competed against schools in northern Wisconsin this year, but for next year the Bluejays will be in a new conference with schools that Merrill competes against in other sports.
“The state meet has sold out, which is an indication of how much this sport has taken off,” Lepak said.