Central sweeps individual state trap shooting championships, Devils Lake grabs team title
HORACE, N.D.—Grand Forks Central swept the individual varsity titles Sunday at the North Dakota Class 2A state trap shooting tournament at the Shooting Park of Horace.
Gabby Fischer won her second consecutive girls varsity title and had a 24-point improvement from last year's tournament for a winning score of 95.
Gabby's father and Central's associate head coach, Jason Fischer, has seen his daughter come a long way from when she first picked up a gun.
"It's awesome," Jason said. "She started shooting and she was like everyone else, had a pretty low average. ... Every year she's progressed and she's worked harder and harder every year."
Gabby first got into trap shooting because her parents encouraged her to try something different. Now, as a senior, she reflects on how she was the biggest obstacle on her journey to back-to-back state championships.
"I had to overcome myself," Gabby said. "It's a mental game. I'm either always fighting with myself in my head trying to figure out what I did wrong or thinking of the score I could possibly get."
Central's Bryar Hanson had a near-perfect score of 99 to capture the boys state title. Hanson missed his fourth shot, but connected on the remaining 96 targets to secure the top spot.
He is not only one of the team's leading shooters, but also one of its founders.
"Me and my grandma actually brought it to the Grand Forks school board, then we figured out there were other teams in the state of North Dakota," Hanson said. "That year, three years ago, is when it kicked off and when state started."
Hanson bested Devils Lake's Bryer Erickson by one target, while South Prairie's Benjamin Lindbo rounded out the top three with his score of 96.
On the girls side, Marit Wang of Devils Lake took second with a score of 91 and a reverse run of 11, while Mandan's Jenna Thompson finished third by hitting 91 targets and a reverse run of one.
Devils Lake edged Central and South Prairie by one point for its second state championship in the last four seasons with a winning score of 473. Firebirds head coach Jeff Frith was thrilled to see his team's hard work pay off.
"It's great, it's very emotional," Frith said. "It's been a long road. The team has put in a lot of work and effort at the range and a lot of lead through the guns. When you start in April and it's freezing cold out and you're bundled in your parkas ... it's worth it. ... We always tell the kids 'every bird counts, when you win the state championship by one bird it brings that home.'"
Along with Erickson and Wang, Devils Lake was led by Dylan Durbin (95), Jacob Richards (94) and Spencer Frith (94). It's been a great experience for Jeff to see his team and especially his son grow and improve.
"It's a great group of kids," Jeff Frith said. "(Spencer) is a senior this year, we've been coaching him since he was old enough to pick up a shotgun, and spent a lot of time doing it and have a lot of fun doing it."
It was a blustery day in Horace, but Jeff said his team is used to shooting in those conditions. Their trap range is a little different than others in that it's up on an abandoned landfill with minimal shelter from the elements.
A commonality shared by many at the state tournament was the excitement over how rapidly trap shooting is growing in the state of North Dakota. Gabby is particularly happy to see the expanding numbers on the female side of the sport.
"I've seen more girls join which is great," Gabby said. "I want to see more girls join, I want more kids to do this sport because it is amazing, and I feel like it's better than any sport and a lot of fun because you travel and you meet new people."
Her father added the importance of everyone having a fair shot of succeeding.
"You see that everyone gets to compete," Jason said. "It's not the best of the best or the parents that can afford the best equipment. Some of these kids are just out with their hunting gun and they're shooting just as well as everyone else. It's great, they love it."