Two members of the Grand Rapids High School trapshooting team will be traveling to Michigan next week for the USA High School Clay Target League National Championships.
Representing the Thunderhawks at the event will be freshmen Jake Smith and Dusty Wilke. The duo finished as the top male trap shooters at Grand Rapids High School this season. It will be the second trip to the national meet for both young shooters.
The event will be conducted in Mason, Mich., from July 10-14. More than 2,000 of the nation’s best youth clay target student athletes will compete for the title of national champion. The national championship is the first and only event when the best USA high school clay target participants nationwide are invited to attend and compete at the same venue.
Although just a freshman, Smith will be making his second appearance at the national tournament this year. He has an average of hitting 23 put of 25 clay targets this season and he said he expects to do better this year at nationals than what he shot last year as a young eighth grader.
“Last year at nationals I got a 93 out of 100,” said Smith. “The top 400 move on and last year I didn’t make it as the cutoff was around 95. So, this year I hope to get a 98 or better. To do that, I need to calm myself because I sometimes I get too hard on myself.”
Also making his second trip to nationals is Wilke who finished with a 23 average this year which placed him sixth in the conference.
“I did pretty good at nationals last year; I didn’t do terrible,” said Wilke who shot a 90 at nationals last year. “It was a little bit nerve-wracking last year but it was fun. This year I hope to shoot a 100. I have shot a straight 50 and not 100 before so to do that I need to be calm and don’t think too much about it because when you think too much you then overreact and you miss.”
Smith has just completed his fourth year in the Grand Rapids program and he said he has gotten better each year.
“I made varsity the first year I was in it and I have improved every year,” Smith, who was eighth in the conference shooting standings this year, explained. “We put a lot of work in; you just can’t go shoot and say you are going to shoot 25. It takes time because you have to learn where the bird is going and you want the right swing.
“The coaches are really good here in Grand Rapids. In the next years I want to shoot a lot of 100s and I want to be among the best of the best. I would like to finish in top three for state and in the top 10 for nationals.”
Like Smith, Wilke has high goals for his next three years as a member of the Thunderhawk trapshooting team.
“In the future I want to become a state champion and then place in nationals,” Wilke explained. “That is going to take a lot of hard work.”
Wilke said he has had a great time being a member of the Grand Rapids High School trapshooting team and he recommends that others try the sport.
“I want to say thank you to the coaches for everything they have done and also my family for supporting me,” Wilke, who is a wrestler in the winter, said.