Berryville trap team ready for state tournament

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

As I interviewed members of the Berryville trap shooting team, it sounded like I was in a battle zone. Instead, I was in the peaceful woods watching Berryville students aim their shotguns at clay pigeons as they get ready for the state tournament this weekend in Jacksonville.

The Berryville trap shooting team recently competed at the regional trap shooting meet, also in Jacksonville. Berryville had four junior division teams compete and four senior division teams compete. Each team comprises five members and coach Steve Warren said Berryville did very well.

"For the junior high teams, we had, I think 196 teams and only the top 16 teams advance to state," Warren said. "For the senior high, I think we had 133 teams, and again only the top 16 advance to state. We had three teams in the junior high and three teams in the senior high advance."

Once Berryville advances to the state tournament, things will change. As opposed to Berryville going head-to-head against other teams, each team member will go head-to-head against a member of another team in a bracket style tournament.

"It's bracketed like the NCAA tournament," Warren said. "It's a computer-generated pick. A No. 1 will shoot against a No. 16 and a No. 2 will shoot a against a No. 15 and so forth. It's head-to-head competition. Score doesn't matter, just as long as you outshoot the team you are going against and you keep advancing. You go through the bracket all day until you get a winner."

Berryville's Trenton Hutchison said in order to come out on top the Bobcats will have to put up consistent scores.

"We are going to have to shoot over 22's" Hutchison said. "All of us. Get 22 out of 25."

Berryville first started a trap shooting team 10 years ago. There wasn't a suitable place to practice, so coach Vince Broeker built a shooting range on his property, an area where the team has been practicing ever since.

"My boy got into trap shooting and we saw the need for the kids to have a place to go hang out and do stuff, so we decided to build a trap field," Broeker said. "The kids are able to come out here and shoot year-round. We have it lit up at night and of course our neighbors, they are aware of what we have going on."

This is Hutchison's first year in the program, but he has enjoyed it thus far.

"I saw my friends doing it, so I figured I had to try it and I loved it," Hutchison said.

Caleb Heithlob has been a part of the team for three years. This is the best position he has been in heading into the state tournament, though.

"I have made it to state all three years, so I'm not that nervous, but I've never been a No. 1 seed going into it," Heithlob said.

Warren said gun safety is the first thing he teaches the team, but said once the coaches get through the basics it comes down to repetition.

"We fit the guns to the kids," Warren said. "Make sure it's lined up properly. Then it's just a matter of getting a lot of rounds as far as lead. You have five different positions that bird can come out of and the wind has a major play in that. It's just a matter of finding that bird and getting the right lead and pulling the trigger at the right time."

Anthony McClellan said it's important to remain calm as the clay pigeon is flying across the sky.

"Once you see it going out there you have to think, 'I want to hit this,' " McClellan said. "Hit the big orange pumpkin. One bird at a time."

McClellan has been with the trap shooting team for two years, but has been shooting guns since third grade. He hunts deer, pheasant and quail and said it would be difficult to choose between trap shooting and hunting.

"It's probably 50-50," McClellan said. "Shooting is my passion."

Warren likes being able to teach trap shooting because he knows it will be something the kids will be able to do for a long time.

"It doesn't matter if you are male or female," Warren said. "If you can control that gun, you will do OK. It's a sport you can participate in after high school and college. You can do it with your parents, kids and friends for as long as you are able to hold a gun."

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