Posted October 19, 2017
The start of the 2017-18 academic year brought with it the traditional fall sports seasons in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference; volleyball teams hit the court, football programs headed to the gridiron, soccer teams took to the pitch and golf squads teed off across the state. However, this past fall saw another sport take root in several MCAC member colleges; Clay Target/Trap League.
In an initiative pioneered by the NHED (Northeast Higher Education District) colleges of the MCAC: Hibbing CC, Itasca CC, Mesabi Range, Rainy River CC and Vermilion CC, as well as Lake Superior College in Duluth, Clay Target teams were formed at each member campus and began the fall for the first competitive intercollegiate season for the sport in Minnesota. By all accounts, the first season was a significant success and lays the groundwork for the sport at the college level for years to come.
The rise of Clay Target in the high school ranks is well chronicled, both in Minnesota and several other Midwestern states. According to a Pioneer Press report on May 30th, 2017, there are 343 teams in the Minnesota Clay Target League, which provides a competitive platform for over 11,000 high-school-aged participants in the land of 10,000 lakes.
This meteoric growth did not go unnoticed by college athletic directors and administrators around the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. Discussions regarding a competitive league as a pilot program in the MCAC began in 2016, and by the spring of 2017, several two-year colleges banded together to give it their best shot. The sport was a natural fit among the NHED schools, with campuses found in the Iron Range and Arrowhead region of the state, where high school clay target teams were already formed and thriving. However, interest was not limited to the rural campuses in communities such as Ely, International Falls and Hibbing. Lake Superior College is located in Duluth, one of the largest metro areas in Minnesota, and the IceHawks squad joined the NHED schools for the first season. And, while they did not participate in the pilot league this past fall, several colleges including Riverland Community College (Austin), Northland CTC (Thief River Falls), and Minnesota West CTC (Worthington) have been exploring the possibility of forming teams in the upcoming years.
On Tuesday, October 17th, the six MCAC colleges met in Grand Rapids, Minnesota for their season ending event. Over 100 student-athletes and coaches took part - and unique to Clay Target, - teams competed by ability and experience level, not gender or school size. Given the fact that only a handful of months were between the opening discussions of 'hey, we should try this' to rolling out a fully formed college league, the coaches, administrators and competitors have much of which to be proud.
Clay Target, and specifically trap shooting, is practiced all over the world. It is the fastest growing activity in the Minnesota State High School League, with over 10,000 students and more than 300 participating teams. The collegiate co-ed league is designed for all skill levels. Students new to the sport or interested in continuing after high school, are welcome to join.
Our five-college league will have a nine week season. Weekly competitions will take place at each college’s home shooting range. There will be an end of season championship. At that event, all of the colleges will meet at one site to compete against one another for individual and team titles. Tuition and fees will cover the cost of targets, ammunition and necessary safety equipment.
College athletics officials will seek approval with the Minnesota College Athletic Conference for varsity sport status. Their goal is to have this in place by 2018, the second season of competition.