Lakeview trap shooter a champion

Jon Wyffels

COTTONWOOD — When Lakeview’s Jon Wyffels takes aim, he seldom misses his mark.

Wyffels started competitive trapshooting — the fastest-growing high school sport in the state — as an eighth-grader. Now as a senior, he is the 2017 Minnesota State High School Clay Target League fall champion.

According to the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, a record 11,040 students representing 343 teams participated in the league in 2017. And Wyffels led the talented Lakeview squad as well as thousands of other Minnesota trap shooters with a 24.4 season average — missing only six targets out of a possible 250 throughout the fall season.

“When I found out I was the state champion, I was pretty shocked,” Wyffels said. “I was very happy. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep that night.”

Wyffels said he ranked third in the state heading into the final week of competition but wasn’t sure how he’d eventually end up placing.

“I talked with my dad about all the different scenarios of how it could go and I didn’t like my chances,” he said. “When my buddy showed me on Twitter, I couldn’t believe it. Then my phone just started blowing up.”

Lakeview head coach Darren Beck praised Wyffels’ accomplishment and effort.

“Jon has worked very hard at steadily improving,” Beck said. “Being one of the best shooters on our team, he has shot enough ’25 straights’ that the jitters that come from that pressure have eased considerably.”

Beck added that Wyffels is looked up to by everyone on the team.

“Jon works hard to do the best he can and if he drops a target, he doesn’t let it bother him,” Beck said. “Maintaining your mental game in the sport of trapshooting is paramount and he does it very well.”

Wyffels has made it into the top 100 in the state for the past five seasons.

“Every year my scores have improved and I’m seeing more success,” Wyffels said. “I started practicing more and more. My dad has a thrower, so I’ll do some rounds in the summer, too.”

Wyffels explained that the Lakeview team members shoot their rounds at Shooter’s Sporting Clays in the rural Marshall area. Each competitor gets in four rounds a week.

“You shoot 25 rounds for a practice and then the second round of 25 is your competition score,” he said. “We do that on Mondays and then do the same thing on Thursdays. The second round is always competition. The one exception is if you shoot 25 straight for a perfect score. Then you automatically get that for your score for the week.”

Any score except for a 25 does not count if shot during the practice round, Wyffels said, noting that the possibility of using a perfect score of 25 in the first round encourages shooters to take the opportunity more seriously.

While Wyffels is pleased about his competition results, he admits that he especially likes just being about to go out and shoot with friends.

“I just like being around people — a bunch of my friends shoot trap and also hunt,” he said. “Our team is pretty decent, too, so it makes it fun.”

Lakeview, in its fourth year as a team, had 31 trapshooting members this fall season — there were 44 in the spring. Since students shoot in both the fall and spring, the squad has technically had eight seasons. Over time, student success has grown.

“We won the conference title last spring and have had students advance to the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament in Prior Lake the last two years,” Beck said. “I’m extremely proud of everyone involved with our team, from the students to the coaches and parents. The dedication everyone has for the success of our program shines through each time one of our students steps up to the line, and their hard work and dedication continues to improve our team each and every season.”

Along with Wyffels, three other Lakeview competitors — Travis Engels (24.0 season average), Kyle Beck (23.1) and Parker Viaene (22.9) — were top 100 finishers in state.

“Despite the competition being extremely tough at this level, Lakeview once again put several students in the top 100 in the state for the fall season,” Beck said. “Lakeview’s female teammates finished strong as well. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone.”

Of the 31 team members this fall, 10 of them are young women, with McKenzy Grunewald leading the way for Lakeview. Grunewald finished the fall season with a 21.6 average, which put her in the statewide top 25 for female trap shooters. Shelby Fritz from Elk River High School led all female shooters in Minnesota with a 23.4 average.

Grunewald also earned first-place honors in the female division for Conference 13.

“McKenzy is an eighth-grader and is a very determined young woman,” Beck said. “When she steps up to the line, she is completely focused. I can very easily see her vying for a top spot in the state in the not too distant future.”

Lakeview’s Megan Gile finished fourth in Conference 13, followed by Teal Bofferding (10th), Faith Louwagie (12th), Brianna Kuehn (20th), Michaela Schuster (21st) and Paige Viaene (24th).

While Wyffels obviously topped the conference in the male division, Lakeview teammates Travis Engels placed third, followed by Beck (8th), Parker Viaene (12th) and Logan Gile (22nd).

“As a team, we ended up third in Conference 13,” Coach Beck said.

While the Lakeview team had a lot to celebrate this fall, there are more opportunities for experience and success in the future. After the spring season, the Minnesota State High School League hosts a State Trapshooting Tournament in Prior Lake.

“Varsity members — they take the seven highest shooters regardless of how old they are — will shoot 100 rounds in Alexandria in June,” Wyffels said. “Then (the state) takes the top 100 from the Alexandria shoot and they get to go to the state tournament in Prior Lake. I’ve done that the past two years.”

Wyffels also shared that to be a letterwinner, an individual has to shoot a 20 or above. He said that there’s a team qualifier as well.

“The top seven teams out of the state get invited to Prior Lake,” he said. “I think it was two years ago that we missed going as a team by one shot.”

High school trap shooters also recently learned that there will be a national level for the sport.

“The Minnesota State High School League’s state tournament was the pinnacle of high school trapshooting in Minnesota until last Thursday, when the USA High School Clay Target League announced the addition of a National Championship being held in Mason, Michigan, July 12-15,” Coach Beck said. “Now we set our sights higher.”

More than 2,000 students athletes are expected to represent their schools in the inaugural event.

“I’m planning to go to that,” Wyffels said. “It will be kind of neat to have all the top shooters in the country there. Minnesota is the best trapshooting state in the country, though. We have the best shooters and the highest number of participants, too.”

Wyffels said he was told that some Olympian shooters will also be in attendance at the first-ever national competition.

“I’m kind of nervous for it, but pretty excited,” he said.

While Wyffels has a few more opportunities to add to his accolades in his final high school year, he’s already hoping his efforts will inspire younger shooters.

“A big part of our team success is because of our coaches — we have six of them,” Wyffels said. “They’re always involved with people and helping everybody, especially the younger kids. I try to do what I can, too. I always try to practice an extra round, so I can shoot with the younger kids. They seem to enjoy that.”