Panther Trap Club caps off season at state
In only its second year of competition, the Concordia Panther Trap Club capped off a dramatically improved season with a strong finish by its novice, junior varsity, and varsity teams at the State Championship held in Sedgwick.
73 high schools sent over 1,400 participants to the Championship. The Panther Trap Club team sent 41 competitors, and its novice shooters took 2nd place overall in the Novice Division.
Moyra Barnes took 4th Place overall in the Girls Novice Division by shooting 71 out of 100 clay targets.
In the Boys Novice Division, Jax Hendershott finished with a score of 76/100 and tied for 5th Place. Michael Ashland tied for 14th Place by shooting a 72/100.
"Michael went to state and shot the best he's shot all season," said head coach Todd Robinson. "He really stepped it up under pressure."
Competing on the junior varsity team, Isaiah Steffen shot 87/100 targets and finished tied for 8th Place in the boys division. Cole Stahlman shot 83/100 and tied for 20th Place overall. In the Girls Junior Varsity Division, Madison Strecker shot 72/100 and tied for 7th Place. Shea Trecek shot 67/100 targets.
At the top varsity level, McKenzie Widen shot 89/100 targets and tied for 7th Place overall in the Varsity Girls Division.
"She's really gotten into the sport," said her father and one of the Trap Club coaches, Jeff Widen. "McKenzie has shown a 70% increase from last year in the number of clay targets she's hit."
Riley McMillan shot 85/100 targets and tied for 11th Place.
In the Varsity Boys Division, Dale Deneault and Braden Wachsnicht both put up scores of 91/100 and tied for 48th Place.
"The winner of the boys division shot a perfect 100/100," said Robinson. "That's how tough the competition is getting."
The relative youth of the team - McKenzie Widen and Riley McMillan were just Freshmen this season; Bradyn Wachsnicht was an 8th Grader - bodes well for the team in the coming years.
"The kids proved last year that they could shoot at this level and compete under pressure. They're still so young, but they've got state championship experience under their belts now, and that's only going to help."
Coach Matt Farmer used computer analytics to help the team track their progress as the season progressed.
"Overall, compared to last year, we've seen almost a 60% increase in the number of targets hit," Farmer said. "This is repetitive shooting, and as the season progresses some kids lose track of just how much they're improving. By being able to look at these charts the kids can see how well they're doing."
"It's encouraging for us as coaches, too," said Jeff Widen. "It's amazing to watch these kids improve. With a lot of them now, as coaches, we've got to start working on the mental aspects of the sport. They've got the technique down, the fundamentals; now we need to coach them on the mental tactics needed."
Coach Todd Robinson has high hopes for the Trap Club in the years ahead. "This was only our second year of competition, and these kids have already proved that they can compete with anybody. If they keep practicing and working hard they'll get to the level they want to be at. Some of the kids already have a saying for next year: 'In It To Win It'."