The East Ridge and Park trap shooting teams returned home from a weekend filled with clay target shooting in Mason, Mich.
The Raptors and Wolfpack were two of 209 teams that qualified for the USA Clay Target League National Championship. The opportunity to participate in the weekend allowed the two teams to play with the best teams in the nation and continue to grow their programs for the future.
"You have to qualify and be invited to the national championship," said Park's trap head coach Pete Soukup. "There's a lot of pride when you get to nationals because each person enjoys this sport and it's great to see for the weekend."
Park finished in 20th place on Sunday's final day, while East Ridge ended in 33rd. The Wolfpack earned a score of 942 out of 1,000 possible points and the Raptors finished with a score of 933.
Park had at least 91 points or higher in each of the 10 rounds and averaged 94.2 points per round. East Ridge had at least 87 points or higher in the 10 rounds and averaged 93.3 points per round.
The weekend allowed the two teams to continue pushing the future of their programs, but for Soukup, the ability to have fun with this sport is key.
"The exciting part for me and the coaching staff is to see them participate throughout high school and see how much they've changed as (people)," Soukup said. "They are great people to coach and have done an amazing job with growing this program to where it is today."
Soukup said he always enjoys going to the national championship because the kids enjoy every aspect of the weekend. From meeting new people in the sport to competing in each of the rounds, there's always a smile on the kids' faces.
Along with the team competition, there's an individual portion to the weekend if the individual qualifies to participate in the national championship.
For Park, the team had eight individuals participate at nationals and four of them made it to the final day of competition. Dylan Pennington led the Wolfpack and finished in 206th place overall shooting 189 out of 200 targets. Hogan Lawson came in right behind him in 210th place with 189 targets.
Steven Etten ended the competition in 268th place, connecting on 187 targets. Finally, Carson Nichols finished in 280th place and shot 187 targets.
Cole Wobig, Donavan De Rouch, Jack Lawson and Sam Rhode also qualified for nationals for the Wolfpack, but they didn't qualify for the final day of competition.
"This is our second trip to nationals and we wanted to improve from the following year," Soukup said. "They did a nice job of focusing even harder at finals and only missed two shots in the last 125 targets."
East Ridge had seven individuals on their team compete in the national championships. Zach Soderberg led the Raptors as he was the only individual for East Ridge to advance to the finals on Sunday. He ended in 106th place as he shot 192 of the 200 targets.
Alex Pyland, Isaac Bibus, James Long, Sam Soderberg, Cole Brenner and Tyler Bibus were the other East Ridge individuals that qualified but weren't able to qualify for the final day of competition.
Math & Science Academy had one individual competing over the weekend as Alex Krska finished in 844th place. He connected on 87 targets the first day but didn't qualify for the final day.
Now, the two teams return home with a chance to learn and grow. Many of the kids are coming back next season to participate in the sport and their eyes are on making the national championship again.
"This is our fifth season in the league," Soukup said. "We just want to keep giving students the opportunity to participate in this sport and compete at the highest level with nationals. Ultimately though, we want them to have fun and enjoy what they're doing each day."