St. John to add shooting sports for students

Kahrie Stegman and Jennifer Stultz
USD 350 to add shooting sports this spring as activity option for students.

With other spring sports in limbo, due to the spread of novel coronavirus throughout the state, students at St. John-Hudson junior and senior high schools may have something new to look forward to. On March 2, 2020, school officials and local police chief Allen Adams met with parents and students at USD 350 to hear how trap-shooting could be the next best activity for St. John, a school known for producing outstanding basketball and track athletes, among other things.

The district will be joining the Kansas State High School Clay Target League, along with other schools from across the state. USD 350 principal Blaine White said that 24 students had already signed up to compete from St. John.

"A unique characteristic of this sport is the students will never travel to compete until the state competition," White said. "There will be no traveling to other schools, instead, students will shoot at their home range and will report their scores to the league, and be able to see how they competed against others in the state the Sunday after competing."

The league requires that every team has one coach per every 10 students, so there will be three coaches initially at St. John. Students in grades 6-12 are eligible to compete, and student-athletes can be involved in both trapshooting and another spring sport.

White said that scoring will be based on schools and individuals, so students will be able to see their own personal progress as well as compete as a team. St. John will compete against others based on team size instead of school size, in contrast to other sports offered.

"We may actually be competing against Olathe or Wichita-Collegiate or Rolla, it just depends on how many students they have out for the sport, not on school size, like other sports," White said.

While the Kansas State High School Clay Target League charges every student $250-$300 to compete, USD 350 wants students to be able to join without any fees. Sponsors have already stepped up to sponsor many of the students already signed up, but White is hoping more locals will join in support of shooting sports activities.

“The more activities we can get kids involved in, the more likely they are to be successful," White said. "I want every student to be able to compete whether or not they can afford to buy shells.”

To do this, the school is in the process of creating fundraising opportunities and asking the community for support and donations. Those who wish to sponsor a child will help them cover the cost of shotgun shells, protective vests, clay targets, a t-shirt and other fees from the league.

Also speaking at the meeting St. John Chief of Police Adams covered the safety logistics of the sport. To join the team, each athlete must complete a three-hour online training to assure everyone can compete safely.

“One thing that they’re awfully proud of is that there has never been an accident at any school who’s doing this,” Adams said. “They’re very strict on the rules.”

The league has a two-strike penalty. This means if students violate the safety of themselves or others, they will be sent home immediately, then counseled back onto the team. After the second offense, they will be removed from the team completely.

It remains to be seen if the coronavirus while have an effect on high school spring sports schedules in Kansas this year. As of Monday, many Kansas colleges were making statements to the effect that they were canceling spring sports for their student-athletes. Some high school athletic departments are taking a wait-and-see attitude, but those planning to participate in shooting sports with no travel required may be allowed to compete.