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East Ridge Trap Team competes in national tournament

The East Ridge Trap Team had eight competitors in the national championship in Mason, Michigan. From left to right in the front row: Zach Soderberg, Alex Pyland, Sam Soderberg and Emily Nalipinski. From left to right in the back row: Ben Sanders, Ike Bibus, Alex Samuelson and Cole Brenner. Submitted Photo1 / 2
Alex Samuelson (left) and Sam Soderberg (right) from East Ridge's Trap Team give each other a fist bump after their last shots at the national tournament in the middle of July. Submitted Photo2 / 2

It was a trip of a lifetime for the East Ridge Trap Team.

A few weeks ago, in the middle of July, the Raptors travelled to Mason, Mich., to compete in the national tournament for trap shooting and clay target shooting.

East Ridge finished in the top 50 at the tournament, but the placement wasn't the biggest takeaway from a weekend filled with new competitors. It was the opportunity to share a love and passion for the sport of shooting.

"This [national] tournament is the best of the best regarding talent across the country," said John Samuelson, a coach for East Ridge. "The kids are able to learn and compete with the best shooters in the United States."

East Ridge went through a handful of tournaments at the end of the season before heading to the national tournament.

The Raptors competed in the Trap Shooting Championship in Alexandria June 11-19. The team averaged 20.2 throughout the tournament, but they weren't one of the top 40 teams to advance to the Minnesota State High School League Championship in Prior Lake.

Even though they weren't able to compete in Prior Lake, the Raptors were in the first tier of teams to be invited to the National Championships from July 12-15. This was the first year that a national tournament was being put on for trap shooting and clay target shooting.

"We felt honored to be a part of this tournament for its first year," said Nate Bibus, one of the coaches for East Ridge. "It was great to represent East Ridge at this national tournament."

At the national tournament, the Raptors had eight members attend and compete including a five-team squad shooting in the team competition as well as a few individual members.

The eight shooters that competed at the national tournament were Isaac Bibus, Cole Brenner, Emily Nalipinski, Alex Pyland, Alex Samuelson, Ben Sanders, Sam Soderberg and Zach Soderberg. These are eight of the 49-man roster East Ridge had for the spring season, including six girls participating on the team and 10 of the 49 shooting sporting clays.

Samuelson and the Soderberg brothers were the captains for the 2018 season and those responsibilities will shift to Bibus, Brenner and Nalipinski next season.

East Ridge was one of the top 200 teams and 1,400 individuals invited to the national tournament.

"Minnesota was well represented at the national tournament," John Samuelson said. "It was great to see East Ridge get off on the right foot both team and individually."

On July 13, the five-man varsity squad competed in the team portion of the tournament. Those five shooters consisted of Sanders, Alex Samuelson, Brenner, Isaac Bibus and Sam Soderberg.

The Raptors shot a score of 464 out of 500, which placed them 29th out of 175 teams. This allowed the team to advance to the finals on Sunday, July 15.

On that Sunday, East Ridge shot a score of 457 out of 500, which put them 56th out of 80 teams. Overall, the team placed 47th out of 175 teams throughout the four-day national tournament with a score of 921 out of 1,000.

"Being ranked in the top 50 in the country is a big honor," Nate Bibus said. "The East Ridge team did a great job throughout the entire weekend and deserved those honors."

On the individual side, Alex Samuelson and Sanders qualified for the individual finals by putting on big performances in the opening day. Alex Samuelson finished with a score of 99 out of 100 and a reverse run of 67, while Sanders had a score of 95 out of 100 and a reverse run of 29.

The reverse run is very important for tie breakers in the tournament. A reverse run is how many targets the shooter hit to end his shooting. For example, Alex Samuelson had a reverse run of 67, so that means he shot 67 straight targets to end his day.

A reverse run will put the shooter higher in the standings than other shooters that had the same shooting score, but a smaller reverse run.

"In the end, a shooter's goal is to hit every target of course," John Samuelson said. "The shooter also wants to hit more targets at the end of their shooting than at the beginning."

Pyland and Isaac Bibus didn't advance to the finals, but both of them averaged a 23 or higher for their rounds. Pyland finished 503rd out of 1,331 shooters with a score of 93 out of 100, while Isaac Bibus finished his day in 526th place with a score of 92 out of 100.

Alex Samuelson and Sanders advanced to the final round with a total of 402 shooters on Sunday, July 15. Sanders finished his Sunday with a score of 86 out of 100 with a reverse run of two, which placed him at 382 out of 402. Alex Samuelson had a score of 97/100 and a reverse run of three, which put him at 73rd place.

Overall, Alex Samuelson finished the tournament in 39th place out of 1,331 shooters and Sanders finished in 384th place. In the end, it was a fun opportunity for the East Ridge coaches and shooters to travel across the country and compete with the best shooting teams in the United States.

"It's definitely a memory I will keep for many years to come and I hope the kids keep it too," John Samuelson said. "Hopefully, we can go back there in the future and continue progressing as a team each season."

The East Ridge Trap Team is an activity at the high school and practices on Thursday and Sunday each week at South St. Paul Rod and Gun Club. There are a few requirements that need to be met before a joining the team.

The first priority for the coaches is safety, since there's weapons and ammunition it's key to have safety as a main concern. A student will need to pass a DNR gun safety course before he or she can join the team because this course helps kids understand the fundamentals of operating a gun.

The majority of the kids on the team provide their own gun, but none of these weapons are allowed at school. The guns can either be brought to practice with a parent, since the kid is underage, or it can be kept at the gun range throughout the entire season in a locker.

Chris Radecki, a coach for East Ridge, said the coaches want to instill safety, fun and sportsmanship to each kid that participates on the team.

The sport of trap shooting and clay target shooting is continuing to increase and it gives students the ability to play other sports in the spring season. The coaches hope the numbers for the East Ridge team continues to increase each season and more information about the team and coaches can be found at the East Ridge athletics website.

"The atmosphere around these tournaments is so much fun," Nate Bibus said. "You learn so much, but you also understand how great trap shooting and clay target shooting can be for any one of these students."

Brian Mozey

I am the sports writer for the Woodbury Bulletin and South Washington County Bulletin. I'm a graduate from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University and have always had a passion for sports since a young age. Whether it was watching or playing sports, I always knew sports would be in my career. I've been born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis and look forward to continuing to learn more about the Woodbury and Cottage Grove area throughout my time in this position. 

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