Eric Griesert remembers the feeling he had when stepping up to the shooting line at the Minnesota High School Clay Target League’s 2015 state championship.
Osakis was in its first year in the league that continues to grow by leaps and bounds each season. The 2010 season had 340 participants statewide. Last year’s state shoot in Alexandria featured almost 6,000 shooters over six days.
“[It] was nerve wracking,” Griesert said. “We didn’t know how many shooters were going to be here and once we heard about 6,000 we were like, ‘Whoa.’ I felt comfortable, maybe a little too comfortable, this year. My first two rounds didn’t go as well as I hoped they would have, but I’m definitely more comfortable now.”
The whole Osakis team settled in on Tuesday during the first day of the eight-day state championship at the Alexandria Shooting Park. This year’s event is even bigger than last year, with almost 7,000 shooters and nearly 25,000 spectators expected from June 14-21.
A total of 38 teams in eight classes will qualify for the state tournament on June 25 at the Minneapolis Gun Club, and the Silverstreaks are one of the 11 programs from the Class A field that did just that.
Osakis finished ninth out of 53 teams with a score of 429. St. James won the Class A championship with 459 clays busted.
Austin Griesert was Osakis’ top shooter with a 90. Matthew Buffington shot an 88, E. Griesert had an 86, Tyler Young an 83 and Carl Hirte rounded out the scoring with an 82.
Eric Griesert, a junior, was Osakis’ top shooter through the whole season after leading the Class 1A, Conference 8 males with a 21.90 average out of a possible 25.
“It was a cool accomplishment because that’s ultimately what I wanted to do with guns and bows,” Griesert said. “I know I’m better with a gun than a bow, so just being tops in the conference means the world. I can’t describe it.”
A lot of that has to do with getting more comfortable in year two. Griesert says the jitters are gone now. The kids who have been in the program both years have learned most of the fundamentals from the team’s volunteer coaches.
There is definitely coaching involved. Osakis went from 13 kids in the program last spring to 16 this year, seven of which are new shooters. Safety is top priority, but the kids are learning a thing or two about the proper shot mechanics.
“The first-year shooters, it’s getting the basics – the foot placements, how you shoulder the gun, at each station you have to hold the gun a little differently to the house,” Osakis coach Brian Griesert said. “Everyone wants to come out and shoot and they think they know how to shoot a gun, but trap is a little different. When the bird is flying away you have to shoot low if it’s a straightaway, getting your correct leads – it takes a little time, a little coaching.”
Brian says he has seen growth from a lot of the kids in terms of shooting ability, and perhaps no one has exemplified that more than Jaden Klimek. The freshman went from an average series score of 10.88 last year to being the top female shooter in the conference this spring at 17.80.
“It was definitely a shock going from last year and an average of like 10 to now being top,” Klimek said. “It’s super cool.”
Klimek was admittedly nervous at Tuesday’s shoot as she finished with a 61. Over the course of the season, she and others in the program are powdering more clays in year two, and they’re having fun in the process. That’s the ultimate objective of the program.
Coaches started the team in 2015 with the goal of letting kids experience another sport that they can do for a lifetime. Like many programs around the state, Osakis has seen the community rally around it through sponsorships from outdoor groups and the General Store in town.
“You look and there’s going to be almost 7,000 shooters shooting this weekend,” Brian said of the state championship in Alexandria. “There’s more people across the state doing this, and it’s something they can do for a lifetime. There’s guys out here you’ll see who are 80, 90 years old and still shooting trap. It’s more of a family thing. Everyone has parents here right now, we’re going to cook out here this afternoon, have a meal, kind of a picnic atmosphere.”
It’s a sport that doesn’t discriminate. Young or old, tall or short – the best shooters come in all varieties. Eric, for one, would love to see more people experience that as this Osakis program continues to grow.
“As we keep going, more people will join up,” he said. “We’ll spread the word all around school so we can get more people in because I’d love to see a lot of people out here. This is one of the sports you can do for a lifetime. Basketball, baseball – this is one of the sports you want to be in.”
CLASS 1A SUMMARY
STATE TOURNAMENT TEAM QUALIFIERS – St. James – 459; Spring Grove – 455; Pillager 449; William Kelley – 447; Winona – 444; Milaca – 443; Eden Valley-Watkins – 432; Glenville-Emmons – 431; Osakis – 429; Red Lake County Central – 423; Rothsay – 423
OSAKIS – Buffington – 43, 45 – 88; A. Griesert – 46, 44 – 90; E. Griesert – 41, 45 – 86; C. Hirte – 39, 43 – 82; Nate Hirte – 29, 23 – 52; Preston Kirksey – 35, 36 – 71; Klimek – 33, 28 – 61; Taylor Larson – 37, 40 – 77; Waylon Muenzhuber (novice) – 7, 6 – 13; Jordon Powers – 35, 36 – 71; Matthew Ramey (novice) – 32, 16 – 48; Evan Soderholm (novice) – 32, 13 – 45; T. Young – 41, 42 – 83