Hillsboro High School team aims toward the sky

hillsboro free press
The Hillsboro High School trap shooting team competed at the 2022 Kansas State Tournament this weekend.
Samantha Saunders with her first-place trophy for winning the 2022 Kansas State High School League Championship.

Hillsboro High School’s target shooting club com- peted at the 2022 State Tournament this weekend at the Kansas Trap Shooting Association near Valley Center. The event was sponsored by the Kansas State High School Clay Target League.

Hillsboro had several individuals do well at the tournament and through- out the target shooting season.

Mattew Basore led the team in trap shooting on Saturday, hitting 90 out of 100 targets. He finished tied for 61st place on the varsity level.

Sammie Saunders shot an 89 in Trap on Saturday to finish in eighth place in the varsity female divi- sion. Saunders shot a 75 in the Skeet competition on Friday to finish in third place.

During the league season, Saunders was the skeet top gun female with an average of 23.10 hits per 25 attempted shots.

“I enjoyed getting to just be there and shoot one last time competitively,” said Saunders. “There are more girls starting to compete so the number is going up. I would say most girls only do trap and not skeet, but I think both are a really fun time so why not compete in both?”

Hillsboro has 11 team members in their fourth season. They are a club at HHS, not an official sport, according to Jessica Saunders, who helped start the team with a friend, her sister Sammie and their dad J.C., who is the head coach.

Jessica, who graduated last year, said a lot of the students participate on the target shooting team as well as do other sports. They practice during the evenings and on Saturdays to accommodate busy schedules.

Jessica and Sammie have been shooting guns since they were four, but she said some on the team had never shot a gun before joining.

“This is like a fun way to get involved,” Jessica said. “It’s also a less expensive way to shoot because we do fundraising.”

The sport isn’t cheap (and getting more expensive) and since it’s a club and not a school-sponsored team they have to pay for their own clay targets, skeets, and shells. J.C. said a case of shells used to cost $50 and is now approaching $100.

Fortunately, they’ve received financial help from several sources. The team received a grant from the Justin Corbet Memorial Shooting Sports Foundation out of Topeka. They are also sponsored by Marion County Quail Forever and several other local businesses according to J.C.

Included on the team are members from Centre High School and Chase County. The team size decreased this year to 11 from 15 last year. With two of the three founding members graduating, JC said they have to start recruiting.

Something unique about target shooting is that competition is based on team size not school size.

“Even though Hillsboro’s 2A, we compete against like 5A schools or 6A schools, because it just depends on how many shooters you have,” Jessica said. “It’s really interesting because we compete against schools we never would compete against in other sports or events.”

Danielle Rogers has two boys that compete.

She said, “The boys love target shooting. I’m surprised more kids aren’t involved. Most practice times are flexible and so many kids around here shoot. It’s a fun sport that anyone can participate in for a long time.”

The state tournament is now a two-day event because of the sport’s recent growth. Three days counting the Skeet Shooting tournament held on Friday. According to Jason Kelvie of the USA Clay Target League, it’s the fastest-growing sport in Kansas.

“The reason being is that we have zero recorded injuries so it’s not like other sports where they’re contact sports. We don’t have any of that,” Kelvie said. “And we allow boys and girls to compete together on the same team in grades six through twelve.

Kelvie said the league started in Minnesota in 2008 and has grown to include 34 states. They started in Kansas in 2014.

Over 2,000 high school students competed in the 2022 State Tournament over the weekend.

Lane and Logan Rogers

Written By
More from Bill Bush
Ewert goes from college student to business owner
While the year 2020 killed a lot of dreams for a lot...
Read More