After the first three weeks of competition, the Oregon City Clay Target Team has fallen to second place in its conference after holding first place for the first two weeks.
The Oregon State High School Clay Target League consists of 36 schools across Oregon that compete weekly for nine weeks each spring. The Oregon League has grown from just three teams four years ago.
Team member Wyatt Copeland, a senior at Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences, has posted perfect scores for the first three weeks of competition in the Oregon league. Of 670 competitors on the 36 teams, he is the only competitor that has not missed a target, breaking all 150 of them.
Last year the Oregon City Clay Target Team finished first in its conference, and Head Coach Dale Nelson hopes for a repeat this season.
“We have three of the top young shooters in the state on the team with seniors Dylan Nelson, Henry Phipps and Wyatt Copeland,” Nelson said.
Coupled with a very strong group of new participants, Nelson expects Oregon City to be a top competitor for years to come. The fourth senior on the team is Reece Elledge, a new trapshooting competitor who is doing well.
Elledge, who also attends CAIS, began trap shooting this year with excellent form and technique, but his scores were not where he would have liked them to be.
“He has a beautiful older Over/Under that he started with,” Nelson said. “The problem was that the shotgun and Reece were incompatible. We couldn’t make the shotgun large enough to fit Reece nor could we make Reece small enough to fit the shotgun. We tried. It really is a beautiful gun.”
Elledge brought in his mother’s shotgun, which fit him better but was still on the short side for him.
“He shot it better, but his scores were still not where we both think he should be shooting,” Nelson said.
Elledge then tried one of the shotguns publicly available at Douglas Ridge Rifle Club, where the team competes weekly. This special trap gun is a 30-year-old single-shot SKB from Japan that can only be used for singles and handicap trap shooting.
Using this gun that is not for sale and only available at the club, Elledge had his first perfect score, breaking all 25 targets. While most hunting shotguns have a 26-to-30-inch barrel, this special gun with a 34-inch barrel required him to “float” the target over the top of the barrel when shooting, designed specifically for rising targets.
“While it is a special gun, I’m convinced the difference was mostly in the gun fit solution,” Nelson said. “Reece had the ability already; we just struggled to address and solve the equipment problem.”
Nelson serves as the youth shotgun coordinator at the Douglas Ridge Rifle Club in Eagle Creek, where all of the top shooters have had to deal with gun-fit issues in the past year.
“This is one of the biggest things to ever happen at the gun club,” Nelson said. “We host both the Oregon City and Estacada Clay Target Teams at the club. On Wednesday afternoons we have 40 families coming to our little two-trap club to compete.”
A strong group of sophomores on the team includes Ian Tekorius and Damin Kilgore — along with freshmen Cole Richardson and Emma Roberts, and Tyler Hattig, an eighth grader who attends Ogden Middle School — all shooting at the varsity level.
“These are just the current standouts,” Nelson said. “We have several young athletes who are improving their scores every week. Some of the sixth graders will be top competitors by this time next year.”
The team is made up of 16 competitors from sixth through 12th grades. Last year, the team’s eight shooters took fifth place at the state tournament and three athletes competed for the trophy at the first national tournament in Mason, Michigan. This year Nelson hopes to take the entire team to compete for the national trophy.