The clay target shooting season has begun for the Perham Hot Shots, which partners with Perham High School and the Minnesota State High School League each year.
Head coach John Lengyel, who took on the role in 2019, is no stranger to clay target shooting sports. Since the 1980s, he has been involved in competitive shooting, coaching, and managing a shooting range.
This year, Perham has 49 athletes in grades 6-12 on the team. This is down slightly from previous years, when about 60 athletes participated. This year's team is comprised of 34 male and 15 female shooters.
The team competes with other schools by shooting at a local range and entering scores online in the league system. There are five weeks of competition that started Sunday, April 18. The team is shooting at a new range, Rush Lake Range, on Sunday afternoons and Tuesdays after school. There is a state championship in Alexandria the team will compete in on June 20. There is also an MSHSL championship that invites the top 40 teams in the state, of which Perham was one in 2019, according to Lengyel.
The sport has grown over the years, and there are about 400 schools in Minnesota that have clay target teams with approximately 12,000 shooters.
Safety is the number one priority for the team. In 19 years of participation, the Hot Shots have had zero injuries reported, even with more than 24,000 participants and more than 12 million shots fired in that time. Athletes are required to have the firearm safety certification or (to participate on the team) they can complete the Student Athlete Firearm Education (SAFE) online certification.
Participants must use their own gun and wear provided eye and ear protection. Another safety measure is that one coach is required for every 10 athletes. According to Lengyel, they currently have nine coaches with more than 100 years of trap and skeet shooting experience combined.
Lengyel's expectations for the season are to get the team to have a safe and fun new season and enjoy the new shooting range. He also wants the team to be competitive.
"The team's goals are to be competitive at both the individual and team conference level and to qualify for the MSHSL state tournament," he said.