MCDONALD'S SWNEWS4U.COM GAME OF THE WEEK (July 28–Aug. 5)
TRAP SHOOTING: Platteville adds trap shooting team
PLATTEVILLE — Platteville is joining the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League.
Beginning this fall, Platteville students in grades 6–12 will have the opportunity to compete for conference and state championships in the sport of trap shooting against shooters from across the state.
The Platteville team was formed by Jim Vesperman, who will serve as the team’s range safety officer and an assistant coach in the inaugural season.
Vesperman’s son Jesse, who will be a sophomore at PHS this fall, has competed in junior high and high school rodeo since he was in fifth grade.
As a member of the Wisconsin rodeo team, Jesse also qualified for the National Junior High Rodeo Finals in the light rifle shooting competition three times as a middle schooler and compete in trap shooting at regional high school rodeos as a freshmen.
Jim served as the shooting director and range safety officer for Wisconsin regional and state rodeos the past four years.
Those experiences sparked the father/son duo’s interest in competitive shooting.
Previously, Platteville students had the opportunity to compete in trap shooting competition through FFA, but were not part of the official Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League.
The Wisconsin Clay Target league was formed in the spring of 2014, as Wisconsin joined Minnesota as the second state to offer a state-wide trap shooting league. The league began competition with six just teams, Potosi High School among them.
This past spring 87 teams competed in the league, including Benton, Boscobel, Cassville, Dodgeville, Iowa–Grant, Lancaster, Mineral Point, North Crawford, Potosi, Prairie du Chien, River Ridge, River Valley, Riverdale, Seneca, Shullsburg, Southwestern, Wauzeka–Steuben.
“We were one of the only schools in the area without a high school trap shooting team,” said Vesperman. “The southwest region of Wisconsin is sort of a hot spot for trap shooting.”
So Vesperman went to work to create a school team in Platteville. He found a coach in four-time individual state champion and two-time state tournament champion Karlie Klas, a 2017 graduate of Potosi High School.
Klas, 21, will be a senior at UW–Platteville this fall studying agriculture education and is a member of the Pioneers’ trap shooting team. She served as an assistant coach at Boscobel for two years (2017–19) and was the overall varsity female Wisconsin trap shooting state champion in the fall of 2015, spring 2016, fall 2016, spring 2017 while at Potosi High School. She also was the two-time state tournament female varsity overall champion in 2016 and 2017.
“Pretty good coach, right?” said Vesperman. “We went right to the top.”
Klas jumped at the chance to become a head coach in Platteville.
“First it was close to me,” said Klas. “Driving to Boscobel became a haul. Also, I have also been friends with Jim quite awhile so I was comfortable stepping into a head coaching position knowing I would be backed by Jim.”
Klas and Vesperman then talked to Platteville School Board vice president Josh Grabandt and met with Platteville Schools superintendent Jim Boebel Feb. 28 to discuss the possibility of forming a trap shooting team.
Klas got approval from the Cassville Conservation Club to use the facility as its home club. Cassville, Potosi and Lancaster also use the Cassville Conservation Club for its competitions and practices.
“The reason we chose Cassville is that they are the biggest and best around,” said Vesperman. “If we build this team up to 50 or 60 kids in a few years, Cassville has the room to accommodate us. Cassville has three trap ranges and lights and was the only club with lights willing to host us. Even though it’s a 40-minute drive to Cassville, it’s still a much shorter night for the team because they have three ranges we can use all at once.”
Vesperman and Klas then created a plan to form a self-funded team (no cost to the Platteville school district) and presented it before the Platteville School Board. The board approved the self-funded team via a Zoom board meeting in April.
The team originally planned to begin competition in the Wisconsin Clay Target League in April, but due to concerns over COVID-19 pandemic opted to wait until the fall season.
Vesperman and Klas also formed the non-profit Platteville Youth Sportsman Club to financially back the trap shooting team.
The club received a $1,000 grant from the Outdoor Heritage Education Center to begin its team.
Registration to join the Platteville Trap Shooting team began Monday and will run until Sept. 14. The team will hold its first practice Wednesday, Sept. 23, followed by five weeks of competition.
Klas and Vesperman expect roughly 30 student–athletes to be a part of the team this fall. Peter Chin, Kurt Hood and Todd Harms will also serve as assistant coaches this season. Each team must have a minimum of one coach for every 10 student–athletes.
“The thing about trap shooting is that it is a very flexible sport,” said Vesperman. “If you are in another sport you can come after your practice and shoot your round later that night. If you have CCD religion lasses Wednesday nights we can make sure you shoot in the first round early in the night. If you can’t make it on a Wednesday night for whatever reason, you can make up your round on another day with myself or one of the other coaches.
“The other thing about trap shooting is that kids with disabilities can compete. This is also a sport that kids that aren’t necessarily athletic can be competitive, continue to get better and have the opportunity to earn a varsity athlete letter.”
“It’s just like every other sport in that you get out what you put in,” added Klas. “If you want to work really hard and rise to the top of your conference or league you can do that, but if you want to go out for the team and just have fun you can do that do.”
Klas, who comes from a hunting family but never shot a shotgun prior to her first clay target shoot, still recalls the first time she went to a range and shot a round of 25 targets.
“I only broke four and said, well, this is not for me,” she joked. “But I was encouraged to keep coming back and I kept practicing and kept improving.”
All student–athletes must be in grades six through 12 and possess a league-approved Firearm Safety Certification, and meet all school curricular activity eligibility requirements to compete on the team. There is still time to earn a hunter’s safety certification through the Wisconsin Depertment of Natural Resources website, gowild.wi.gov.
“We will be very strict about safety,” said Klas. “Safety will always be our main concern.”
A week of competition consists of one 50-target score. All scores must be submitted by Saturday night.
A range field consists of five shooting posts, seven feet apart. Five shooters will take turns, shooting five targets from each of the five posts.
The targets are released from the centrally located house by a voice command (pull), one at a time at a speed of 42 miles per hour. The target may come out going left, right or straight but will always be moving away from the shooters.
After a shooter has finished shooting five targets from each of the five posts (25 total targets), they will have a break before shooting a second and final round of 25. The number of targets hit out of 50 is the shooter’s score for the week. A full round of 50 targets takes roughly 40 minutes to complete.
The total scores from five weeks of competition will be tallied to determine individual and team conference and state awards.
Platteville will be placed in a conference with teams that have a similar number of student–athletes.
All teams shoot at their home range for each week of competition. Scores are submitted electronically each week and published on the league’s website wiclaytarget.com.
Season results for the entire state will be published the third week of November; conferences announcements (Nov. 17), Week 1 results (Nov. 18), Week 2 (Nov. 19), Week 3 (Nov. 20), Week 4 (Nov. 21) and Week 5 (Nov. 22).
There will also be an eight-week spring season in April and May with a two practice weeks, a reserve score week and five weeks of competition rounds.
“I am looking forward to watching the kids grow and improve within the league, but also learn a respect for firearms while becoming comfortable and safe around them,” said Klas. “I am also looking forward to building relationships with the kids.”
The cost for the fall league is a $35 registration fee and $20 for each round (50 targets and 50 shells).
To join the Platteville Trap Shooting team email coach Vesperman or coach Klaas at email@example.com.
“For kids interested in joining the team there will definitely be fundraising opportunities,” added Vesperman.