New program to start up this spring
MAPLE CITY — Glen Lake pulled the trigger on a new athletic program.
The Glen Lake Community Schools board of education approved a proposal to add a clay target team this spring.
“It’s gaining popularity in pockets of the state, a lot like lacrosse,” said Lakers athletic director Mark Mattson, who had a hand in Traverse City Central adding a co-op varsity lacrosse team last year along with TC West. “We’re excited to be one of the first — if not the first — school in northern Michigan to have this sport.”
More than 40 downstate schools field clay target teams, including Grosse Ile, Dexter, Midland, Manchester, Saline, Port Huron Northern and St. Clair. Gaylord St. Mary and Johannesburg-Lewiston have archery programs.
“It’s just another great opportunity for our students to participate in something,” Mattson said, “and allow them to represent Glen Lake.”
The Michigan State High School Clay Shooting League had 42 teams and almost 1,000 student-athletes participating in last year’s spring season, more than doubling from the prior year.
“A lot of our kids are already involved in the Cedar Rod & Gun Club,” Glen Lake superintendent Sander Scott said.
Kris Deisler, who spearheaded the push, will coach the co-ed team.
Participants are eligible to win varsity letters, Scott said.
Deisler said he’s confident the Lakers can field around 10 shooters. The gun club has its own youth trap spring league with 17 entrants, a dozen of whom are Glen Lake students, including Deisler’s sophomore son Cody.
“It tails in so nicely with the (club’s) priorities,” said Deisler, who advocated for a team the last two years.
Glen Lake will field a trap team, where shooters aim from one position at clay targets launched from a stationary point. Skeet shooting involves eight different shooting positions, and could be added at a later time.
Deisler said the Lakers could co-op with other schools if turnout isn’t as expected, although conference assignments for the Michigan State High School Clay Shooting League go by number of shooters instead of school size.
Teams conduct events each week (Friday evenings, in the case of Glen Lake), with two rounds of 25 targets at their home club, submitting scores each week to compete virtually against other squads. The nine-week season includes two weeks of practice starting March 31, a reserve week April 14 that can be used if another week’s event is canceled, five weeks of competition beginning April 21 and the state finals June 15 in Mason.
Scott said he’s personally seen how such a team can benefit schools. His nephew in Lowell didn’t like school or participate in any extracurricular activities until the Red Arrows added shooting as a sport.
“We’re always looking for ways to get kids connected to school,” Scott said. “I’m really impressed with the professionalism and organization of the Cedar Rod & Gun Club.”
The Cedar Rod & Gun Club’s Educational Foundation will self-fund the team for the first year, including helping Laker students who need it with ammunition and targets. Glen Lake’s only expense is travel to the state finals in Mason.
Mattson said the gun club presented a certificate of liability that would cover any potential safety issues.
Deisler said safety is a big focus, and there hasn’t been a serious injury in the league’s history. Participants must have a league-approved firearm safety certification. Scott said the shotguns will be transported in a separate vehicle than the athletes for the state finals.
The USA High School Clay Target League had more than 26,000 participants on 800 teams in 20 states for the 2017-18 school year. That’s a large increase from 191 teams in two states four years earlier.
USA High School Clay Target League
Year Participants Teams States
17-18 26,426 804 20
16-17 20,109 615 15
15-16 15,745 445 12
14-15 11,077 317 3
13-14 7,046 191 2
12-13 3,637 114 1
11-12 1,715 57 1
10-11 707 29 1
09-10 340 13 1
08-09 60 6 1
07-08 30 3 1