HIBBING — After placing 14th at the state meet, five members of the Hibbing High School Trapshooting team, will continue their seasons today at the National Clay Target event at the MTA Homegrounds in Mason, Mich., from July 10-14.
Peter Jensen, Nathan Rude, Nathan Johnson, Luke Pocquetti and Zet Bennett will be taking their clay target skills on the road in the five-day event, competing against over 2,000 of the nation’s best clay-target student athletes.
According to Jensen, who will be a junior next this fall, each shooter had to average at least 19.1 to be eligible to compete at Nationals.
“You had to have a certain average,” said Jensen, who tied for ninth individually at the state meet. “All of us were above that average to make it there. We did pretty good at state. This is cool because there’s shooters from all around the country.
“It’ll be amazing to be shooting side-by-side with these people from different states.”
Jensen said he’s ready for the competition.
“It takes a lot of dedication and practice, mostly persistence and consistency,” Jensen said. “It comes with a lot of practice, trying to stay focused, have a clear mind, being healthy and trying to have fun while you’re doing it.
“You have to stay relaxed. I have to focus on one bird at a time. It can be hard sometimes, trying to focus and not think ahead or back to the birds you may have missed already. I hope to be up there with the top scorers, and have fun with my buddies, too.”
Rude, who will be a freshman, averaged 23.5 this season, well above the cutoff range, but he wants to improve upon his state-tournament showing.
“I did OK, but I didn’t do as good as I wanted to do at state,” Rude said. “It was the nerves that got to me. I couldn’t help it. The first bird, I missed, then it started to get to me.
“I started getting nervous, then I kept missing. I was trying to relax, but I couldn’t do it. You have to focus. You can’t think about anything else. You have to shoot the next bird, then the next bird. You have to keep thinking about that.”
Rude said he’s elated about this op
portunity at Nationals.
“It feels good,” Rude said. “It will be hard to keep my emotions in check, but my teammates will be able to calm me down. I want to shoot the best I can. All of us are good shooters, and I feel like we can do well out there. I hope to shoot well.”
For his part, Johnson, who’s going to be a sophomore, averaged a 23 all season. That took a lot of sacrifice on his part. He shot a 96 to get to state.
“It was a lot of practice and shooting rounds for non-competition,” Johnson said. “That made me feel good. I’ve been putting in a lot of work. It’s coming out to the trap and club and shooting two days a week, shooting hundreds of rounds.
“I started out shooting around 22s, and toward the end of the year, I was shooting 24s and 25s. It’s been pretty good.”
When he’s standing there ready to shoot, Johnson clears his head and thinks of nothing else but that target.
“I don’t think about things, and I shoot them one-at-a-time,” Johnson said. “I can’t let it get into my head. I can’t think about things. I’ll take my time, focus and make sure everything is good before I shoot.”
Pocquette is the youngest shooter on the team. He’s going into the eighth grade this fall. His average was 21.4, but he, like Rude, didn’t do as well at state as he wanted to do.
“I was nervous, so I didn’t do as well as I wanted to,” Pocquette said. “It was my first year, and I didn’t know what to expect. It was quite a bit different than I thought in my head. You have to get over that in your head.
“I have to treat it like just another day, and shoot like I’ve been shooting before. I’ll try not to focus on where I’m at, and shoot like normal, at the range, with my friends, I shoot well.”
Bennett averaged a 23.1 this season, but he was an alternate at the state meet, which was fine with him.
“It was different,” Bennett said. “I enjoy shooting more than watching, but it was good to go and support my team for that big occasion, but I knew I would be participating in Nationals.
“It’s an honor, and I felt happy to be able to do this. It’s awesome.”
Like his teammates, Bennett said the most important thing is focus.
“I have to make sure I’m mentally there,” Bennett said. “That’s the same for everyone else. We have to concentrate, focus and go there knowing we can do well. No matter what happens, I have to make sure I’m all there. If I stay focused and I’m ready to shoot, then I’ll do well.”
No matter what happens, Bennett is happy to have this chance on the big clay-target shooting stage.
“It’s a really good feeling because there’s not many people that get to do this,” Bennett said. “To be able to be selected with some of the people that are shooting, it’s an honor.”