Wilsonville High School's trap shooting team recently completed its inaugural season blasting clay targets in the Oregon Clay Target League.
The sport is simple enough. Using shotguns, competitors try to hit as many targets as they can in a 25 shot round and rotate between five stations. They practiced once a week and competed five times throughout the season.
According to head coach Todd Tolboe, the process from turning the idea of launching a team into a reality was "fast and furious."
In late February, a parent suggested to Tolboe that he should inquire with the Wilsonville High administration about the idea. So Tolboe set up a meeting with Wilsonville High Athletic Director Dennis Burke. Burke was interested so they put together an informational meeting for prospective players soon after. In March, the season began.
While 17 students attended the informational meeting, a few didn't sign up in time so the team was made up of nine athletes. The team practiced alongside Molalla High and Canby High at Canby Rod and Gun Club.
"It all clicked together very nicely even though it was quick," Tolboe said.
Tolboe wasn't an expert in the sport but helped out with a local Boy Scout troop for five years. Since Boy Scouts earn a merit badge in trapshooting, he had some familiarity. Correspondingly, Tolboe said about half of the team members are from the Boy Scout Troop 194.
In preparation for his newfound role, Tolboe attained various certifications including National Rifles Association range officer training and also utilized the Clay Target League's online resources to glean more information. Also, the students completed a safety class along with either SAFE training or the Oregon Hunters Safety Course prior to the season. Along with Tolboe, assistant coaches Juan Vasquez, Dave Grundman, and other helpful hands at the club trained the athletes.
"The coaches' resources on the website are phenomenal. It was great. That combined with state champions that belong to Canby Rod and Gun were out there and they gave the team ideas and updates and they gladly offered their expertise," Tolboe said.
Tolboe says the team averaged 56 percent improvement from the beginning to the end of the season while Gavin Dodril improved 136 percent.
"Overall, the kids were very open to learning, spent time watching YouTube and on clay target site and learned how they track the clay targets and what they need to do," Tolboe said.
Tolboe described the most challenging aspect for beginner trap shooters: "Learning to continue the swing of your fire arm versus stopping to take aim and hit the target. They needed to continue that momentum of the swing."
Most of the students brought their own shotgun while the Canby Rod and Gun Club allowed some to borrow a gun for practices and competitions. Also, Kennedy Restorations donated safety vests, Warne Scope Mounts donated shirts and hats and the athletes bought ammunition and clay targets at the gun club.
The team competed in Conference A, for schools with 10 or fewer athletes, against Arlington, Yamhill-Carlton, Crane Union, La Grande and Madras, finished in fifth place and came just 12 points short of upending Yamhill-Carlton for fourth place.
"That's not bad considering we were competing against teams from rural, hunting communities," Tolboe said.
Also, Parker Tolboe finished third in the conference in the boys individual standings with an average tally of 21 hits per round.
"He's a good learner and has those natural instincts. He just has good patience and followed through on it," Tolboe said of Parker.
Unlike this season, Tolboe and others will have plenty of time to promote the sport at the high school in preparation for next season. And he says most teams double in size in their second and third seasons of existence. He knows five boys and three girls who are interested in joining the team next season and believes the fact that trap shooting is an Olympic sport is an attractive quality.
Tolboe says he received positive feedback from Wilsonville athletes.
"All the kids enjoyed it, said it was so much fun, really appreciated the safety factor and learned a lot about the sport. They were able to go out and have fun as a team. The great part is they were supportive of one another as the season went on," he said.