By Nick Simonson
The Bismarck State College (BSC) Mystics Clay Dusters trapshooting squad put on a dominant performance at the Minnesota Collegiate Athletic Conference (MCAC) 2021 Clay Target Championship on Oct. 19 in Alexandria, Minn., with sophomore Ayden Kautzman posting a perfect 100 to lead the team to its first championship and earn him the men’s and overall high gun awards for the event.
Kautzman’s 100 was followed by teammate Bryer Erickson’s total of 99 which tied him for second place on the day along with Jacob Schemp of Lake Region State College (Devils Lake, ND) and Carson Mattern of NDSCS (Wahpeton, ND). BSC’s William Gebhardt posted a 98 to tie for fifth overall, and Ethan Oswald notched a 96 to help launch the Mystics Clay Dusters squad to their first-place team finish. Jenna Thompson posted a 92 for a seventh-place finish in the ladies’ division at the Championship.
“It was my first 100 I’ve ever hit in my life and to hit it at a college championship was pretty amazing, those last ten birds I could barely even say ‘pull’ my heart was beating so fast,” Kautzman recalls of his peak at the season ending-event, adding, “throughout the year I didn’t do very well, but on BSC’s team we had four shooters in the top five in the whole conference, which is pretty awesome to say that our team did that well over the season and then went to the MCAC Championship and won the championship too.”
With a team total of 487, BSC bested the 480 posted by both Ridgewater College (Willmar, MN) and Alexandria (MN) Technical and Community College. Ridgewater took second place on the day based on high gun tiebreaker. Top shooters for BSC at the MCAC Championship were:
Ayden Kautzman 100
Bryer Erickson 99
William Gebhardt 98
Ethan Oswald 96
Daniel Murray 94
Ethan Myers 93
Jenna Thompson 92
Trenton Zainhofsky 92
Joe Wood 91
Joining the MCAC this fall for regional trap and skeet shooting competition, BSC brought some of western and central North Dakota’s top clay target shooting talent together in just its second year since being organized in the fall of 2020, when it captured the USA College Clay Target League’s Division 1A-1 regular season title in its inaugural season. The team quickly gelled and a strong sense of camaraderie along with a serious work ethic has driven the team to its meteoric success, according to head coach Darryl Howard.
“It’s an amazing group of kids that just want the whole works, and they’ll work as hard as they have to to get there, and they build on one another. It’s not just five individual shooters going out there and shooting good scores, they are cheering each other on and that’s what it takes to make the whole world go round in a team atmosphere and tournament,” Howard explains.
BSC’s growing shooting sports program continues to draw competitors from around North Dakota and the surrounding region to a school offering a wide array of post-secondary education options. Strong support from administration for the trap and skeet shooting programs has also helped drive the program’s success and is spurring continued interest from incoming students, explains assistant coach Eric Thompson.
“The sky is the limit with this program, but first and foremost we need shooters. We need to continue to recruit, we need to tap in on the surrounding communities as well as our own backyard. Even just in Bismarck-Mandan we have between 250 and 300 high school shooters and word travels fast. People are asking questions, people want to be part of this program, there’s no doubt, and we’ve got a spring league right that’s around the corner and we’re already starting the planning and starting the talks on that, and hoping to even pick up a few new shooters,” Thompson explains of the continuing efforts.
The BSC Mystics Clay Dusters trap and skeet shooting squads are open to all active students at the college, and registration for the spring season will begin in January of 2022. The teams compete in the USA College Clay Target League nationwide against schools sporting similar-sized squads and in the MCAC in divisions within the conference, based on participant numbers at each school. More information on the BSC shooting sports programs can be found at mrctl.org, and information on the USA College Clay Target League and the MCAC conference can be found at usacollegeclaytarget.com.
Featured Photo: BSC Mystics Clay Dusters trap shooters pause for a photo with individual and team awards at the MCAC Championship in Alexandria, Minn. on Oct. 19. DEO Photo by Jason Lueder.