Small Madras trap shoot team beats Goliath Hermiston by one target to claim gold.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Left to right, Mason Lee, James Lange, Seth Feigner, Connor Comingore, Seth Colton, coach Kevin Tollefson, Nico Navarro, Logan Lee, Carson King, Justin Borchert and Elias Tollefson were all part of the Madras High School trap shoot team this year. Eight of the shooters won the trap shooting state title in Hillsboro June 28.
The Madras High School trap shoot team beat out 31 other Oregon teams recently, to become state champions at the Oregon State High School Clay Target League June 28, in Hillsboro.

Although the team had a total of 11 kids, only eight went to the state competition. The team, which consisted of Mason Lee, James Lange, Logan Lee, Seth Feigner, Elias Tollefson, Nico Navarro, Connor Comingore and Justin Borchert, was coached by Kevin Tollefson.

Teams can take as many kids as they want — some schools take over 30 kids — but only the best five shoot for the team.

Trap shooting is a competition event that consists of 25 or 50 targets from a 16-yard station. Up to five shooters occupy the stations on the trap field, which is the area of the shooting range where the competition takes place. Each field has shooting stations. The clay targets are launched from a trap house, which is the structure in front of the stations.

Usually, five shots are taken at each of the five stations. After the five shots are taken by the entire squad, each shooter moves to a different station.

This year, there were six conferences in Oregon; Madras was in the 1A-2 Conference with Crane Union, Cascade Christian, Rainier, Heppner, and Pendleton High School. In the conference, Madras had the top three shooters — Elias Tollefson, James Lange, and Carson King.

"Over the course of five weeks, kids throughout the state score at their local clubs, which is called remote scoring," head coach Kevin Tollefson said. "They shoot 50 rounds every week and we send the scores in."

"Once it gets to the state level, it really means a lot more," he said. "When you are scoring remote, everyone is shooting different birds, meaning the wind and weather can make a difference, but when you are at state, everyone is there shooting the same birds."

The Madras trap shoot team has been on the rise since joining the Clay Target League in 2017, when they placed third. Madras finished in second place at the state competition last season, losing to Hermiston.

"This is really a great accomplishment," Tollefson said. "Some of these programs like Hermiston have outstanding programs. It is a huge community of kids that shoot and they have really been the Goliath that we have been trying to take down. For these kids to do that is really remarkable."

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Left to right, Mason Lee, James Lange, Logan Lee, Seth Feigner, coach Kevin Tollefson, Elias Tollefson, Nico Navarro, Connor Comingore, and not pictured, Justin Borchert, win the state championship trap shoot compeition."These kids are shooting 473 birds out of a possible 500," he said. "That is somewhere around 94% average. Between five kids, that is really good scores."

The Clay Target League only had three teams in 2016 and saw 34 teams, with 450 kids participating, in this year's competition.

"What really opened the floodgates to the rise of participation is this Clay Target League that came out of Minnesota and provided insurance for all these programs at the time, around three years ago," Tollefson said. "It is becoming more and more popular now and it is projected to add an extra day to competition next year because of the estimated kids."

"There is quite a few opportunities for kids to earn scholarships though shooting," he said, "which gives kids another reason to perform at this."

This year, the White Buffalos defeated Hermiston by one target, claiming gold. Elias Tollefson individually placed second overall, and was tied for 11th overall in the state. He was also recognized as a member of the all-state team.

"This was a great accomplishment and very rewarding," said Tollefson. "People give me compliments, but I just tell them I am very fortunate to work with this group of kids. They listen, take directions, are very good kids and I have been able to work with them. They achieved what they wanted to."

"It was so satisfying to see them happy," he said. "That is why I do this. I get so much enjoyment watching these kids become successful and grow the sport."

His son, Elias Tollefson, will be competing at the national competition July 12-14, in Mason, Michigan. The entire Madras trap shoot qualified for state, but could not go because of financial reasons. There will be around 1,400 elite shooters at nationals.

"We have been able to provide an opportunity for these kids to shoot and we shoot a lot," Tollefson said. "The only way for these kids to get better is for these kids to practice. We have been very fortunate as far as fundraising and grants to be able to pay for the costs of ammunition and range fees. We always hope for more support from schools and stuff like that, but so far, we have been able to do things on our own."

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