A new sports team at Tillamook High School is aiming for state competition – the Tillamook Trap Shooting Team. Trap shooting, an Olympic sport, is one of three popular competitive shotgun shooting styles, along with skeet shooting and sporting clays.
The team was initially created under the guidance of Steve Schwend, a Coast Real Estate Professionals broker who is a Tillamook Gun Club member and an assistant Tillamook Junior High School football coach.
Schwend met with Tillamook High School Principal Greg English about starting the team and joining the Oregon High School Clay Target League, which is part of the National USA High School Clay Target League. In 2018 the Oregon Clay Target League had 25 teams and 450 student athletes, this season, they have 34 Trap teams, and 2 Skeet teams with 714 student athletes competing weekly.
Schwend said the idea was met with some safety concerns, but mostly with support, as trap shooting is highly accessible and reportedly among the safest school sports.
“Since Jim Sable started this program in 2001 in Minnesota, there have been no reported injuries to athletes or staff to date, I don’t think there is a competitive sport in High School that has that kind of safety record,” he said.
English brought the idea to school district officials with help from Tillamook Gun Club member and Assistant Principal Jill Ingram. According to Schwend, the Tillamook School District officials’ main concerns were athlete safety and insurance liability.
“I reassured the District that safety was our No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 priority, with athlete’s having fun as No. 4 on the list, and that the Oregon High School Clay Target League had insurance coverage for all registered athletes and coaches,” Schwend said.
Schwend asked Tillamook Gun Club member Tim Remaley to be the head coach from the beginning. A shooter since age 9 and competitive champion since 13, Remaley is a highly qualified coach and was a Primary Marksmanship Instructor in the Marine Corps. He holds seven range records at Camp Pendleton and two at Parris Island, and he won a bronze medal competing with the Marine Corps Rifle Team.
Remaley is also a National Rifle Association certified firearms instructor. After his military service, he started shooting handgun matches as well. He later discovered the shotgun shooting sports. He was extremely excited to be a part of this program that allows students from 7th through 12th grades to learn firearm safety and marksmanship.
Getting the next generation of shooters interested in firearms was big motivation for Remaley, but he noted he is also keenly aware of growing political threats to the Second Amendment. He wants show the community that young people can be taught how to utilize firearms in a safe and appropriate manner.
“Tim has made this program extremely safe and fun for the athletes and staff,” Schwend said.
“This wouldn’t have happened without all the support from the Tillamook Gun Club members and the amazing parents. A huge thank you to Trina Goss who sewed the patches on all the kid’s vests, and here is a list of people involved that have made this all possible: Larry Morrill is the Range Saftey Officer(RSO), coach, and has donated countless hours to the club, and a few guns for the kids to use, his wife Patty scores for the kids and is a vital TGC board member, Tim Whalen is also an RSO, TGC staff, and makes sure the kids have targets to shoot at and are encouraged.
“He enjoys seeing kids break targets, Sheri Jones scores for the kids and does a ton of work behind the scenes to make things run smooth, Todd Johnson is helping coach and is the Vice President of TGC, Shara Robertson is helping coach as well as helping with the club, and her sister Jill Ingram is also coaching and helping with the school side of the program, Chris Roehl helps coach the kids and his wife Makenzi keeps the kids organized at the club, Carl Schwend is also a coach and has a great way of helping kids realize some of the issues with their technique, the Allen family for their donation and encouragement to the program,” Schwend said
The sport has one particularly unique attribute in terms of competitions. The athletes aren’t required to travel to face other teams, which can be costly and time-consuming. Nearly all of the competitive shooting will be done at the Tillamook Gun Club in a virtual tournament format. Scores are tallied from teams of similar sizes all across Oregon on “game day.”
There is a competition that requires travel, the state tournament at the Hillsboro Gun Club on June 22-23. Trap shooters can compete at state if their grades meet the criteria, as with all other sports in the District. Another big draw is that nearly all students may compete and there are no benchwarmers on the team. Everyone’s scores count and are placed into a league database for a team score.
Schwend said students who may not be interested in other sports, or who cannot compete due to some physical limitation, may find a place on the trap shooting team. The sport also offers the chance to “letter,” for those who want to fill out their school jackets with their accomplishments. And there will be a page in the yearbook for the team.
This past February, an open house for information and signups was held in the high school cafeteria. Melissa Craig, director of the Oregon High School Clay Target League, gave a presentation and took questions from parents and staff. “We had quite a few students sign up, and parents were excited to see this kind of sport in our community as there are a lot of hunters here,” Schwend said.
The league allows students from 6th through12th grades to compete, although the school district initially only allowed 9th through 12th grade. Schwend said there were some disappointed students and parents.
However, in March it was decided by Tillamook Junior High School and the Tillamook School District to allow 7th and 8th graders to join the team. Schwend said there are some 6th graders still coming to the Tillamook Gun Club to shoot on Thursdays and Sundays who are looking forward to competing next year.
An early March open house at the junior high packed them in. Schwend said parents and students were excited to learn about the new school sport. Registration for the league closed a few weeks later and league shooting began in April. Tillamook now fields 27 students on the trap shooting team, taking practices at the gun club.
Schwend said the athletes are enjoying the firearm safety education and the sport of trap shooting. He thanked the community for its support, highlighting the Tillamook Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association for helping the team purchase shooting vests and pouches for each athlete. The Tillamook Farmers Co-op also helped out with ammunition costs, and the Tillamook Gun Club has allowed the use of its facility.
“Lloyd Schwend, my Dad, is the reason I started down this road. He always said a High School shooting team would be huge in this area, but he could never get one off the ground,” Schwend said. “Well, we finally did it Dad!”
Layne Johnson wanted to try something new, so she joined the trap shooting team several weeks ago. She had never been shooting before, but she’s having fun with it. Seeing improvement in the accuracy of her shots with her pump action 12-gauge Sears Model 20, she plans to compete next year.
Bruised cheek and shoulder aside, Johnson said firearms safety education is a good skill to have these days. All of the students the Headlight Herald interviewed said training with the trap shooting team has given them a better sense of how to handle firearms safely and with confidence.
Vivian Seaholm recently attended a youth hunting camp where she took down a ram. She goes on hunting trips with her parents and she thought the trap shooting team was a good way to develop her firearms skills. Seaholm plans to return for the team next year, and thinks it will grow in size as more students take an interest.
“I like this sport because it’ll really stick with me – I’m probably going to be hunting for a long time,” Seaholm said, adding that she enjoys both the sport of hunting and the food that comes from it.
Eugene Blackburn said he’s always been into shooting and was happy to find a sport with guns in it. He started practicing for the team before it was official, using a double-barrel Springfield 12-gauge. While the side-by-side configuration is less prominent in trap shooting, it hasn’t slowed down Blackburn, who recently hit 24 out of 25 with his shotgun. Blackburn plans to push for a collegiate scholarship through competing in high school trap shooting.
Ian Schwend has been watching his dad shoot since he was little and waiting for his chance. He also started practicing for the team before it was founded. Being on the team is chance to build his knowledge of firearms while having fun with friends. Ian said there is a buzz about the team around the school and he thinks more students will be involved next year. While state competitions and scholarships are on his mind, right now he’s happy just to train his skills and have fun.
Chase Trussell was also a founding member of the team. He said the team practices three times a week including the summer. He echoed the feeling of enjoyment other students expressed. Trussell advised new shooters to learn the proper gripping technique and stock placement to overcome the well-known kick of a shotgun.
“For a while there, I was getting beat up with an old Model 12,” Trussell said. “But if you lift your elbow up, there’s a pocket in your shoulder that comes out. You can just set the gun right in there, and then you put your elbow back down.”