Photo by Theo Tate
Members of the Edwardsville High School Trap Club include (front row, from left) Caleb Tucker-Loewe, Caleb Shaw and Rebecca Hackett; (back row) Will Skigon, Alex Miller, Amanda Gunderson and Ryan St. Peters.
EDWARDSVILLE — The awards are continuing to pile up for the Edwardsville High School Trap Club.
In a span of two months, the Tigers won the Illinois High School Clay Target League championship and the IHSCTL state title, placed in the top five in three divisions at the Scholastic Clay Target Program state tournament and had three of their competitors winning awards.
“The team is fantastic,” said Rebecca Hackett, who will be a sophomore this year. “The coaches are great. It’s like we’re a giant family. It’s wonderful. We’re all here for each other.”
Now, EHS is setting its sights on a successful showing at the SCTP National Championships in Marengo, Ohio, 40 miles north of Columbus, on July 9-16.
“Last year, it was down in Sparta,” said EHS coach Dennis Gunderson, who is also a sergeant for the Edwardsville Police Department. “They moved because of the stuff with the state for this year. I believe they had 4,000 or 5,000 down there last year for that shoot. We’ll have four teams and two extra kids that have to shoot. They have to shoot on their own. They’re not shooting on the team. They have to shoot as individual. They’ll be used as substitutes.”
The EHS Trap Club is in its third season. When the program started in 2014, it had 13 members. Now, it has grown to 50.
“There’s a pretty decent-sized group that started when they were freshmen when we started this organization,” Gunderson said. “A lot of them have come in as it goes. They’ve come in with different skill levels and different interests. It’s unbelievable to see them get together and form into teams and work together and help each other out. Even when we’re having practice, they don’t sit there and try to tutor each other on homework and different things like that. It’s a good group.”
The IHSCTL is a statewide trap league that includes Metro East schools such as Alton, Marquette Catholic, Metro-East Lutheran, Piasa Southwestern, Staunton and Triad. Students would participate in shooting competition each week and coaches would enter their scores into the league’s website. The Tigers were awarded first place after the eight-week season.
Amanda Gunderson, the coach’s daughter, picked up the High Female Award. Alex Miller, who will be a sophomore this fall, won the High Overall and High Average awards.
On June 4, the IHSCTL held the first high school only state tournament at Brittany Shooting Park in Bunker Hill. The Tigers not only won the tournament, they also had three members winning awards. Hackett won the High Female award, Gunderson received the High Female runner-up award and Miller won the High Male runner-up award.
On June 25, EHS competed in the SCTP state tournament in Sparta. The varsity team placed second, the junior varsity team finished third and another JV team placed fifth.
“I think that’s pretty darn good,” Dennis Gunderson said.
Amanda Gunderson, who will be a senior this fall, has been with the team since it started in 2014. She’s also the team’s president.
“I was the first girl and I was the only girl for a long period there,” Gunderson said. “We had a couple who were floating in and out. Being with all of the guys and being voted as president this last year has really been a big change because we actually found out that we were able to go to Ohio for nationals this year, so we had to figure out the fundraising for all of that and I had four other club officers with me. So they helped out a lot.”
Gunderson had plenty of shooting experience before joining the club two years ago.
“I’ve actually been shooting since I was a little girl,” Gunderson said. “I actually started out with a rifle league in Pocahontas, Illinois, when I was 11. I did that for two years and then I got into air rifle up in Highland and then I found out about this. Ever since I was little, we’ve always gone out and do stuff like this.”
Dennis Gunderson said Mike Osborne and Ed Holder came up with the idea of having a trap team at EHS.
“They had both youth that were shooting at Brittany Shooting Park and they became freshmen,” the EHS coach said. “The kids talked to their parents and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we can start a trap club here at the school. So they started working on it in September of 2013. I’ve got pulled in by (then Edwardsville Superintendent) Dr. (Ed) Hightower because being the school resource officer, I wanted to make sure that no guns were in the school. Plus, he found out that I’ve been a (firearms) instructor for 30 years, so he wanted me to be involved in it. So my daughter said he wanted to be involved. So I said, ‘Well, Mr. Holder and Mr. Osborne were going to coaching school and I said, ‘Hey, can I go, too?’ That’s how we started.”
The trap team was approved by the Edwardsville School Board in February 2014. The Tigers started practicing the following month. All of their practices are at the Edwardsville Gun Club.
Trap shooting is the art of shooting a firearm at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets.
“These kids are revitalizing the whole trap shooting,” Gunderson said. “Trap shooting was dying. The club out on Staunton Road was getting less and less because it was older people. Now, we’re bringing in 50 young kids. We have two other groups come in and do it. We have 150 kids out there on Tuesday nights shooting and it’s all because of their kids and their parents that get it going.”
This spring, Will Skigon competed with the trap team and played with the school’s baseball squad.
“I enjoy both sports,” said Skigon, who will be a junior this fall. “Around the third quarter is when the conflict starts happening because baseball is just starting. Usually we have leagues around that time, so around then, this past year, I started shooting trap in leagues. I still practice in the weekends whenever I have time, but baseball took priority for that section of the year. During the fall, trap is the priority. During the summer, trap is the priority.”
Gunderson said he believes the Tigers will have a bright future.
“If they’re not at the top now, they’re heading that way,” the EHS coach said. “That’s why they’re all competing and everything because they like it and they want to do it. They found that it’s something that give them interest.”