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First clay target team starts in western North Dakota

BEACH—The North Dakota state High School Clay Target League has started their first team in the southwestern part of the state.

Beach High School is in the midst of their first year as a clay target shooting league and are already proving to be successful.

The team currently is sitting in second place in their conference.

Joe Courneya, the state director for the high school clay target leagues, said that he hopes Beach will be the beginning of many more leagues in the area.

"We're just kind of getting going over there," he said. "It was exciting to see Beach step up and get the program started out in the very western side of the state."

Chris Kittleson, the east campus administrator at Beach and clay target coach at Central Cass High School, was involved in getting the team started and looks forward to cheering on both teams at the state competition June 17 in Horace.

"I'll be wearing red and white for Casselton but I tell you what, when they're done, when I see the Beach kids, I have a Beach polo and I'll pull that on and I'll cheer for them too," he said.

Casselton and Beach are in the same conference this year as the conferences are arranged by team size, not school size—like other sports.

Rob Curl, Beach's team coach, said that the eight members of the team—two females and six males—are improving as the weeks progress.

"They are doing better ... they shoot a little bit better each week I think," he said. "We had our first perfect score last night."

Gunner Fastveet scored a perfect 25 on Tuesday night and Kittleson was able to give him a patch to commemorate the momentous occasion.

"He was just beaming from ear to ear," he said. "I was just really excited I was able to give him one."

A perfect score means that a shooter didn't miss a single target—a rarity among first-year team shooters.

"It's fantastic to see somebody do that the first year and I knew he would get there because he's been shooting 20, 22, 23s," said Curl. "So I knew all we had to do was get him to do was relax, concentrate a little bit, and keep in the zone."

Curl said seeing the progress of the students from the first week of practice on April 2 till now—the second week of competition—has been the highlight of his first year coaching the team.

"I'm getting to the point where I don't know if I even want to shoot against them," he said with a laugh. "I think they'd beat me."

Kittleson said he hopes with his experience as a school administrator and a clay shooting team coach, that he will be able to talk to principals about bringing clay shooting to their schools.

"The toughest thing is being able to find a coach willing to do the paperwork and a little bit of fundraising," he said. "I do know that Blaine Dukart, in Dickinson, is working really hard to get a team going in Dickinson."

Courneya, said from the looks of it, interest is starting to be more prominent in the region.

"It's great to see the support start bubbling out in the western side of the state," he said. "It's been really popular in small towns or rural communities where hunting and guns are pretty much accepted. It's a nice gateway sport for kids who have never had the opportunity to be involved in the shooting sports."

Curl said the community surrounding Beach has been very receptive with the VFW, Pheasants Forever, Beach Trap Club, Badlands Riflery and an anonymous oil company, donating to help the team.

He said he hopes to see more interest in the area become prevalent.

"We're the only trap team in this area and I think they are missing; everybody is missing out on this deal," he said. "This is something youth get into and have fun with and it's not that expensive ... I just think next year I will have more, I hope that I will have more."