The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League’s championship in Alexandria is off and running with Class 2A teams taking to the range on Tuesday.

Day one started with Spring Grove High School shooting a 480 out of a possible 500 from its five highest shooters to take top honors at the Class 1A level. Sophomore Jordan Gjerset of Echo Charter School got the tournament’s first perfect 100 of the tournament on Monday.

Right behind him on day two was another 100 from Cole Girtz of Park Rapids, and that perfect score is what it took to beat a couple local shooters. Minnewaska’s Dustin Peterson and West Central Area’s Waylon Stevens both joined Hunter Johnson of Wheaton in shooting 99.

“I felt like I could do pretty good. I was hoping I could come in here and do 100,” Peterson said. “I went to nationals last year and shot a 195, 100 straight my second day. So I thought if I could do that at nationals, I could do that here. I missed that one target, so I just had to keep going.”

The top three shooters for both the boys and girls are honored at the end of each day, and tiebreakers are decided by reverse runs from their last miss. Stevens came up on the short end of that tiebreaker with Peterson and Johnson after missing his only clay in his third round of 25.

Peterson’s only miss came in his second round of the morning session. He was a perfect 50-for-50 in the afternoon.

“I missed it, and it was like, ‘OK, 99 is a good score too,’” he said. “That’s what my coaches say, you just got to keep going with it.”

Peterson’s score led Minnewaska to a third-place finish as a team with a score of 480. The Lakers had two shooters finish in the top 100 among the entire league by season average in Carson Tauber (24th, 24.2) and Brady Drewes (43rd, 24.0), so they were confident coming into the day that they could perform well.

“I feel like that could get us into that top 40 (overall),” Peterson said. “We’ve been in the top 40 before without placing, so I think we could do that with this score... We had a lot of good shooters coming into this.”

This year’s championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park runs June 10-18 as each of the nine class levels compete on their own day. The tournament will bring in 8,320 student-athletes from 315 schools, and John Nelson, President of the MNSHSCTL, said in a release leading up to the event that over 30,000 students, parents, coaches, and spectators are drawn to Alexandria for nine days in what is promoted as the world’s largest shooting event.

“It’s long, that’s the first thing, but it’s fun looking at all these people and looking at all the different scores,” Peterson said. “I think that’s really cool seeing all these people here, and we have an entire week of this. Thousands of kids. That’s just crazy.”

Students compete for individual and team honors in three different divisions -- novice, junior varsity and varsity. The championship is a team qualifying event where the top 40 varsity team scores throughout the entire nine days earn the right to shoot at the Minnesota State High School League state tournament on June 21 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

It is there that an overall team and individual state champion will be crowned.

Osakis finishes 13th behind a 94 from Young

Shooting in front of so many people and with a little more on the line adds to the pressure of this day for some.

“The first shot for me was a little nervous,” Osakis senior Tyler Young said after his morning session. “After that, you’re with the same people, so you just shoot normally. Every coach tells you, ‘Just calm down. It’s just like a normal shoot.’”

Osakis shot a five-person varsity team score of 458 to finish 13th. Young and fellow Osakis senior Brandon Hetland were the first two for their team to run off perfect rounds of 25 during their morning session. Young led Osakis with a 94 on the day after following up his first perfect 25 in the second round of the morning with another 25 in his opening round of the afternoon for 50 straight. Hetland finished with a 92. Nathan Hirte had a 93, while Isaac Hetland shot a 90 and Chase Anthony Pitschka shot an 89 to round out the team score.  

Osakis is in its fifth season as a program. They started with 13 kids in the inaugural spring and are now up to 29 participants.

Brandon Hetland and Young are both in their third years. They led the team this spring by average. Young posted a 21.7 during the regular season, good for 12th best in the Class 2A, Conference 7 field. Hetland tied Hirte for 14th in the conference at 21.60.

“The coaches definitely helped,” Brandon Hetland said. “I averaged 15’s my first year. This year and last year were good years for me with the coaches’ help. It’s foot position, everything mentally.”

That mental side of shooting is what so many trap shooters have to harness, especially at an event like the championship that brings in so many spectators.  

“I know I can shoot 25s, but it’s the mental game that gets me,” Young said. “It’s, ‘Oh, this is my last shot, don’t screw it up.’ It’s a big mental game for me. The coaches always say put the last one behind you. Don’t look back, don’t get down because it can get worse from then on if you’re thinking about it. You just say, ‘I’m going to hit the next one.’”


The Class 3A programs will take their turn shooting at the championship on Wednesday starting at 8:30 a.m.

Brandon-Evansville and Ashby are a part of that field. Brandon-Evansville will shoot its first session at 8:30 from trap 7A. Ashby shoots at the same time from trap 6A.

(Editor's note: The results on the USA Clay Target League Scoring listed Osakis' Tyler Young as shooting an overall 89 on the day as of Tuesday night. That was listed in the original version of this story, but Young shot a 94 out of 100 to lead Osakis on the day.)

CLASS 2A TOP-10 TEAM SCORES - Park Rapids - 484; Wheaton - 481; Minnewaska - 480; Kingsland - 472; Becker - 468; Paynesville - 467; Mabel-Canton - 466; Stephen-Argyle Central - 461; Apple Valley - 460; Redwood Valley - 460; Osakis - 458; West Central Area - 450

MINNEWASKA TOP-FIVE VARSITY FINISHERS - Dustin Peterson - 99; Brady Drewes - 98; Kaleb Drewes - 96; Carson Tauber - 94; Haley Murken - 93

OSAKIS TOP-FIVE VARSITY FINISHERS - Tyler Young - 94; Nathan Hirte - 93; Brandon Hetland - 92; Isaac Hetland - 90; Chase Anthony Pitschka - 89

WEST CENTRAL AREA TOP-FIVE VARSITY FINISHERS - Waylon Stevens - 99; Brennan Anderson - 90; Colin Anderson - 89; Nicholas Porter - 89; Shane Wrolson - 83; Taylah Schroeder (junior varsity) - 95