(Update: adding video, new information, comments from OSHSCTL officials)
From four schools, 49 participants in 2016 to 50 schools, 800-plus today
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- After taking a year off because of the pandemic, the Oregon State High School Clay Target League (OSHSCTL) is underway once again. As NewsChannel 21 found out, it’s bigger than ever.
"In order to keep clay target shooting sports alive, you needed to find a way to bring youth shooters, youth athletes into it,” OSHSCTL Marketing Specialist Drew Tri told NewsChannel 21 Thursday afternoon.
The High School USA Clay Target League began as an after-school program in Minnesota in 2001.
Then in 2008, it officially launched with three schools and 30 athletes.
The league made its debut in Oregon in 2016, with only four member schools at that time. Since then, those numbers have changed drastically.
Melissa Craig, the league’s Oregon state director, said, "There's inspiration everywhere, and every single day. It's really been a privilege for me to see these kids, see these families and have it grow like it has."
This year, the league set a record, with 50 high school teams in Oregon, three of which are here on the High Desert -- Mountain View, Madras and Culver, although Culver will not be participating this year.
Mountain View first joined in 2018, and now has one of the largest teams in the state, with 46 student-athletes. Madras has been in the league since 2017, and it has 13 student athletes.
Combined, those schools only make up a small percentage of the 834 competitors across the state.
Tri said, "(For) roughly 37-38% of the league students, they don't actually participate in any other activity. We're providing an experience for them to be a part of something at their school that they wouldn't otherwise have."
Both Tri and Craig said the sport is set up to be safe during the pandemic. It's outdoors, it's naturally socially distanced, no one shares equipment and participation is done virtually during the season.
At the state tournament, though, all 834 student-athletes are invited to show up in person.
As of now, despite the pandemic, the plan is to hold that event in June, in some capacity.
"(It’s) maybe the safest in terms of COVID,” Tri said. “Masks are required, and we will follow all COVID protocols that are required by the state."
The league is co-ed, and target shooting is considered an “adaptive sport,” meaning students with physical disabilities can take part.
Even though you’re handling a gun, the OSHSCTL said it’s one of the safest high school sports you can play, with zero reported injuries since the league began in 2001.
Here's the rest of the league's news release about the spring competition:
“After a tremendously difficult 2020 for schools and student athletes, we are pleased to surpass our pre-COVID spring participation numbers.” said John Nelson, President of the USACTL, “The record-setting participation this spring is the result of the incredible efforts of coaches and families to overcome ongoing issues with the pandemic and ammunition shortages.”
The League’s co-ed and adaptive nature are key attractions to schools nationwide. The League is fully Title IX compliant, with both male and female athletes competing on the same team.
Additionally, it’s an ‘adaptive’ sport, which allows students with physical disabilities to take part. The League is also the safest sport in high school, with not one reported injury since the inception of the League in 2001. Each athlete must complete firearm safety certification before participation.
“Athletes of all types are able to participate in clay target shooting,” said Nelson, “The League has a ‘no benchwarmers’ philosophy, and the True Team® scoring system is designed so that everyone’s score matters, not just the top athletes on a team.”
With over 38,000 participating athletes in the 2020-2021 school year, the USA Clay Target League is the largest youth clay target shooting sport program in the nation. The League offers trap, skeet, sporting clays, and 5-stand leagues to secondary and postsecondary schools across the country. The League is the only 100% school-approved clay target shooting sport program in America.
The League attracts student athletes to participate in shooting sports while creating a ‘virtual’ competition among other League teams throughout each state. Family travel is minimal because practice and competition are conducted at a shooting range near each school’s location. Conferences are determined by team size rather than geographic location for fair competition.
Athletes earn True Team® scoring points as determined by their performance and ranking against all athlete scores within their team’s conference. The team score and overall standing are calculated by adding the earned points from qualifying athletes and posted on the League's website. Athletes and their families track their individual and team performance on their phone, tablet or computer via the Shooter Performance Tracker®.
The USA Clay Target League is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is the independent provider of clay target shooting sports for secondary and postsecondary schools. The League’s priorities are safety, fun, and marksmanship – in that order.
Visit http://orclaytarget.com/teams for more information and a list of participating schools.