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Seth Benson, center, and Jakob Sailer, both of West Fargo, are members of the Fargo Area Scholastic Target Team. The two competed in the state shoot Saturday in Horace. Dave Wallis

Local group looks to increase participation in trap shooting in state

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HORACE - Locally, participation growth for the Fargo Area Scholastic Target Team (FASTT) is hitting its mark.

Statewide growth, however, has been slower.

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The trap shooting club, which began in the spring of 2013, experienced a membership spike from year one to year two, a trend the club’s head coach Mark Sahli hopes continues.

Members of FASTT – who range from ages 12-18 and cover the cities of Fargo, West Fargo, Horace, and Harwood – have competed amongst themselves the past two years. The club is the only one of its kind in North Dakota that is a registered member of the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP).

“It’s an up-and-coming sport,” said Sahli, who lives in West Fargo and organized the club last spring when his son Cooper began to shoot trap regularly in addition to playing on a traveling baseball team.

“The goal is to get SCTP clubs going in the four major cities of North Dakota – Minot, Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks,” Sahli added. “The ultimate goal would to become sponsored by the High School Association, but that is going to take some heavy lifting.”

The club’s affiliation with SCTP allows its members to be eligible to qualify and compete in the National Tournament, which is held July 18-19 in Sparta, Ill.

Saturday, FASTT hosted the second annual SCTP State Shoot event at The Shooting Park in Horace, which is the club’s home park during the regular season.

The club’s 40 members, which include eight female participants, each shot 100 rounds and competed in 10 different divisions based on their age and regular-season shooting averages.

“I’ve always been into the shooting and hunting,” said West Fargo High School student Mason Kuhn. “The club is a great way to practice shooting and to have fun.”

The cost per member is $125, which covers vests and six rounds of shooting for the regular season. Any cost of extra rounds is covered by the individual participant. Sahli said the club gets grants that fund shells and rounds of shooting for the members.

Safety training sessions are also required prior to the season.

The club’s sharpshooter this spring was Jordan Gianakos, a junior at West Fargo High School, who hit all 25 of his targets in one shoot. Even more impressive was that the 25-for-25 performance came on Gianakos’ first trip to the range of the season.

“I’ve been pretty close to that score lately this year,” said Gianakos, who also wrestles at WFHS. “I like going shooting and going hunting. I shoot at least once a week during the year and two to three times a week during the (trap) season.”

Sahli has high hopes for his club and the sport of competitive high school trap shooting in North Dakota. Sahli said club expansion across the state is the first step in that direction, and he currently serves as the state’s SCTP adviser.

Most of the club’s members have an outdoor sporting background, but as Fargo Davies junior Shawna Pantzke puts it, “Trap shooting is a safe sport that anyone can participate in.”

Pantzke has been active in trap shooting since elementary school and would like to see the sport become more popular in the state similar to Minnesota, which has experienced rapid participation growth in scholastic trap shooting.

The Minnesota State High School League sanctions a trap shooting league that includes 185 teams from 275 schools and has a membership that exceeds 6,000 participants.

Minnesota is the only state that sponsors a trap shooting state tournament, and the first-ever tournament took place last week in Prior Lake, Minn.

“Our club has grown so much this year by word of mouth alone and by current members bringing a friend to our practices,” Pantzke said.

Sahli recalls six or eight kids attended the first ever informational meeting last year, but the club ended the year with 24 members. Add 16 members this spring and the club appears to be headed into the right direction.

“It is promising,” Sahli said. “The goal is to get more kids and more clubs involved so we can compete against other teams. It’s a little frustrating we aren’t further along in the process considering how North Dakota is so outdoors rich.”

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Tom Mix
Tom Mix is the North Dakota high school sports reporter. He's worked at The Forum for five years. He was the 2013 North Dakota sportswriter of the year, an award that is sponsored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com  
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