The Delano Tiger Trap Team won second place at the USA High School Clay Target League National Championship.
BY MATT KANE
DELANO, MN – The weather was hot and so, too, was the marksmanship of the members of the Delano Tiger Trap Team July 12-15 on the national stage at the inaugural USA High School Clay Target League National Championship in Mason, MI.
The five Tigers who shot in the team competition destroyed clay targets at the Michigan Trapshooting Association Homegrounds range to the pace that, when the orange dust settled on the final day, Delano landed in second place in the nation.
“It would have been great to get first place, but to get second in the country is amazing to me,” said graduated-senior Kayla Lysne Tuesday evening at the Delano High School atrium during a welcome home party for the team. “I am still amazed by the whole thing. It was fun to go out with a bang, senior year.”
Just how impressive is Delano’s finish at the national event?
They were second out of 173 teams from all over the United States. More than 1,300 individuals participated at the National Championship event.
“The national is pretty impressive. It would be like our football team getting through sections and going to play in the big stadium,” said Delano head coach Dan Lysne. “You may, literally, have thousands of people watching you shoot, so the pressure is immense.”
Knowing their own shooting abilities helped the Tigers deal with the pressure, according to Lysne.
“The best of the best were competing at nationals, which made the competition very tough,” he said. “While the kids were a little nervous, they were also very confident.”
That confidence and ability to stay calm was displayed the greatest by Carson vanSytzama on the first day of the team competition. He confidently connected for a perfect score of 100 targets.
“I’ve shot a lot in my life and I don’t get intimidated,” said vanSytzama, who will be a senior this fall. “I’m at home when I’m shooting, so I am very relaxed.”
The tricks to shooting a perfect round are simple.
“I just never missed. There are some rounds I feel more relaxed then others,” said vanSytzama, who also plays football and wrestles at Delano. “Once you turn your body into a mechanical machine and have the routine down, and, if you can put yourself in the right mindset, you can’t miss.
“The trick is to not think about it. The more you think, the more you miss.”
vanSytzama’s perfect round in the preliminary round that Friday (July 13) easily helped put the Tigers in the top 80 out of the 173 teams, a feat that was needed to qualify for the finals. The Tigers were fourth after qualifying with 478 targets out of a possible 500.
Heading into the finals, which were Sunday (July 15), Delano trailed only Hermiston High School out of Oregon (484), conference foe St. Michael-Albertville (480), and Fenton High School out of Michigan (479).
On the final day, The Land of 10,000 Lakes took over the leaderboard, with St. Michael-Albertville (488) and Delano (481) finishing in the top two positions, respectively, and four other Minnesota schools finishing in the top 10.
New Prague (482) finished third, giving Minnesota a sweep of the top three spots. Also in the top 10 were St. Peter (5th, 951), Wayzata (9th, 943) and New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva (10th, 474).
The national title comes less than a month after St. Michael-Albertville claimed the Minnesota state chamionship. Delano finished 14th at the Minnesota tournament.
“I knew they were good, and they deserved it,” Kayla Lysne said of the Knights winning it all.
To have two Wright County schools finish first and second at the national level is impressive. The Tigers hope to catch the Knights soon.
“We love competing against St. Michael. St. Michael is always on our radar. They have a fantastic program up there, and they are the ones we are always gunning for,” Dan Lysen said of Delano’s biggest rival. “At state, we lost against them. We don’t want to see them lose, but we want that title someday.”
For the Tigers at the national meet, vanSytzama followed up his perfect score of 100 with a 98 in the finals for a total of 198. That led the team in what is a co-ed competition.
“I feel very blessed to have been able to shoot as well as I did there,” said vanSytzama. “I am thankful for the fun experience.”
Also shooting for Delano were graduated seniors Kayla Lysne (96-93-189) and Carter Mittelstaedt (93-94-187), junior Erin Schultz (94-99-193), and freshman Reed Graunke (97-97-194).
“Nationals was definitely a team effort,” said coach Dan Lysne. “While a few of our kids struggled a little bit, the others stepped up their games and we finished with a great score that earned us second place.”
The alternates were freshmen Reed Schmidt and Ben Hanson.
Ten Tigers shot in the individual competition at the national championship. Four of them made it to the finals.
Senior Jacob Cassell’s 106th-place finish was tops for the team. He shot a 96-97-193.
Graunke finished 117th (95-98-193), Schmidt 186th (96-95-191), and Lysne finished 241st (96-91-187).
Not making the finals were vanSytzama (411th, 94), Hanson (593rd, 92), Carter Mittelstaedt (704th, 92), Schultz (723rd, 90), 7th-grader Caleb Cassell (730th, 90), 8th-grader Sawyer Solstad (771st, 89), 8th-grader Billy Ryan (777th, 89), freshman Parker Mittelstaedt (865th, 88) and 6th-grader Ben Graunke (1,247th, 68).
Dan Lysne was impressed with all of his shooters.
“I don’t think people realize how much pressure is on these kids, especially when you get into the top tier of shooters, with 23-plus averages. It really takes missing one target to knock you out of it,” the coach explained. “In the individual competition, especially, they know that, if they miss one or two targets, they could be out of it. That’s frustrating, but what I love to see the most is, when they do miss one or two birds, they continue to push forward. It would be so easy for them to drop out, but they know they have to continue on.”
The weather conditions added to the pressure at the national.
“They shot four days. It was hot and long days, and they were exhausted. But, yet, they still had smiles at the end of the day, and they kept pushing,” coach Lysne said. “I was exhausted just watching them. At the end of the day, my feet were tired.”
A great decision
The excellence the Tigers showed on the national stage amost never came to be, as the national competition was far from being a priority at the beginning of the season, coach Dan Lysne admits.
“To be honest, when we started our season, the national championship wasn’t even on the radar, as we were focused on the Alexandria championship and the Minnesota state championship,” the coach explained. “The excitement for nationals really came about when it was time to reigster.”
The enthusiasm from the student-shooters and their families forced the issue that Lysne should reigster Delano for the national event, which was a tiered registration, with the top shooters during the season qualifying first and others filling the open spots.
“When we approached the kids who were selected to shoot on the team and represent Delano, they did not hesitate one bit, and were pretty pumped to go,” he said. “Going to nationals is a big committment from the kids and their families, as it was so far away.”
Closer to home
The Tigers were some of the best shooters in the state of Minnesota all season.
Delano finished second in Class 9A Conference 1 in the state of Minnesota, with only, you guessed it, St. Michael-Albertville finishing better.
vanSytzama and Kayla Lysne both finished in the top 100 out of 12,000 shooters at the 2018 Trap Shooting Championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park, and qualified for the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) championship at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake. The Tiger team also competed at Prior Lake.
In Class 9A at Alexandria June 19, Lysne was the high gun for varsity females, hitting 99 of 100 targets. She was the high shooter for all females for the nine days that made up the championship.
As for the team, Delano’s novice team finished second with 383 targets, and the varsity Tigers finished third with 481 targets.
Eighth-grader Isaac McClay enjoyed a perfect round of 25 for the first time and won the novice competition by hitting 89 of 100 targets.
Bemidji won both team competitions. The Lumberjacks hit 399 targets in the novice division and 487 in the varsity competition.
At the MSHSL state championship in Prior Lake June 22, when the top 100 shooters in the state competed for the title, Lysne shot a 98 and finished tied for 21st place, and vanSytzama shot a 95 and finished 52nd. The Delano team finished 14th out of 40 teams with the score of 473.
To no surprise of Delano, St. Michael-Albertville, the same team that edged the Tigers at the national level, won the state championship. The Knight’s winning score was 491.
New Prague (485) finished second and Park Rapids (485) was third.
During the team competition, Lysne missed her 24th target in the first round and then blasted 76 straight to finish with a 99.
Also with the Delano team at the MSHSL event were Reed Graunke (97), Schmidt (95), Hanson (93), Schultz (89), vanSytzama and Maxim Hofstede.
Coach Lysne commends his shooters for their efforts during a busy state meet.
“Competing in the individual competition is an honor in itself,” he said. “Shooting in both the team and individual competitions can make for a long and exhausting day, both mentally and physically.”
For the regular season, vanSytzama’s season average of 24 per round was tops in Class 9A Conference 1.
Lysne finished first in the conference, with teammate Schultz finishing second. In the entire league, Lysne finished second as the high overall female, and Schultz was fourth.
Since the Delano Tiger Trap Team was formed in the spring of 2013, it has grown into one of the more popular activities at the school, mirroring the growth of the sport in the state.
The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League was born in 2001, and, in 2014, the MSHSL declared trap shooting an official high school league activity.
For the 2018 season, which began April 1, 11,936 students on 349 high school teams participated in Minnesota.
Seventy-nine of those students shot for the Delano team, a number that is up 20 shooters from a year ago.
vanSytzama was on that inaugural team in 2013 as a 6th-grader. He was one of 29 team members at the time.
“It is really cool that we helped the sport grow to how big it has become,” he said of he and his Tiger teammates. “To experience all that has happened has been unreal. From year one, where it wasn’t huge and now it has exploded. It’s been super cool to watch the team grow and to watch the sport grow.”
The growth at its own range forced Delano to move up a class, from 7A to 9A, where it competed against much larger schools.
Delano clearly showed it can compete with those schools, and plans to do so, again, next season.
“We have a lot of young shooters. And, with the returning seniors, we are pretty deep right now,” said Dan Lysne. “Some of our ninth- and 10th graders, and even some eighth-graders, are amazing right now, so I am really pumped about the years to come.”