Cortland County students reflect on competing in clay target shooting at nationals

Front row: McGraw coach Alex Perry, Mason Allen, Benjamin Stull, Lindsey Watrous and Chrissy VanWagenen.
Back row: Sam Morse, Jaydon Bassett, Lucas Allen, Zander Weeks, Blake Weeks and Kyle VanWagenen.
(Cortland Voice/File)

 

A handful of student-athletes from Cortland County recently had the opportunity to compete in not only the state level of clay target shooting, but at the national level as well.

Eight McGraw High School students and one student from Cincinnatus Central School put their skills to the test as they took part in both the New York State and USA High School Clay Target League Championship Tournaments.

The student-athletes from McGraw included Zander and Blake Weeks, Benjamin Stull, Jaydon Bassett, Lucas and Mason Allen, Blake Bergey and Lindsey Watrous. The lone student-athlete from Cincinnatus was Kyle VanWagenen.

“It’s great to see these kids doing so well,” said McGraw coach Alex Perry. “I never thought they’d go this far so quickly. I’ve seen them grow immensely.”

Perry noted how “great it is for these kids to learn how to properly use firearms.”

“They have fun and compete in a lifelong sport,” she said.

 

Each student-athlete reflected on their experience so far with clay target shooting:

 

KYLE VANWAGENEN

Age: 17

School: Kyle graduated from Cincinnatus Central School this year. He plans to attend Penn Foster College for gunsmith training.

Number of years shooting: 3 (Kyle has been shooting since he was 14 years old)

How interest in clay target shooting began: “It started when my father (Bob) and brother (Billy) taught me how to hunt.

“My interest in clay target shooting really piqued when my friend, Kurt, asked me to shoot trap one day. I was also inspired by my father’s co-worker, Dave, since he always shot 99 straight (out of 100) every time he competed.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “(Clay target shooting) is enjoyable. It’s an excuse to go out and shoot. If anything, it’s more of an adrenaline rush than relaxing.

“Now that I’ve graduated from high school I hope to continue competing in adult leagues.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I went to the state and national tournament each for the first time this year. I definitely enjoyed nationals more because it was nice to go out and be there.”

 

LINDSEY WATROUS

Age: 17

School: Lindsey graduated from McGraw High School this year. She will be attending Nazareth College in the fall and plans to study physical therapy.

Number of years shooting: 2 (Lindsey has been shooting since she was 15 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “My grandpa (Doug Dailey, Sr.) and my uncle (Doug Dailey, Jr.) got me involved in clay target shooting when I was old enough to be able to shoot.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “I love it. It’s mind-blowing that a shooting sport could be so big. There’s a shooting range near the college I’m attending so I’m hoping to go over there every once in a while.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I’ve competed at states twice and nationals once.

“It was great to meet new people from different states. It brings in diverse groups of people that just go out and shoot.”

 

LUCAS ALLEN

Age: 17

School: Lucas graduated from McGraw High School this year. He went to BOCES for trade school and currently has a full-time position at Dovi Motors, Inc. in Cortland.

Number of years shooting: 2021 was Lucas’ first year of competitive clay target shooting.

How interest in clay target shooting began: “My interest at first came at a recent family event I attended where everyone was shooting for fun. I’ve been shooting ever since.”

“My aunt, Sam Morse (manager at Blodgett Mills Sportsmen’s Club) got me interested in clay target shooting as well.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “I like the competition and achievement side of it.

“(Competitive clay target shooting) definitely has its ups and downs. There have been a lot of joyful moments, but also not so joyful. You’re always expected to win, but then you’re sadly disappointed when you don’t.

“The pressure of competing in front of people doesn’t get to me. You just have to shoot the best you can. Even though I can’t compete in high school events anymore I’m hoping to compete in an adult league soon.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I enjoy the state tournament a lot more. The national tournament was taken more seriously, but that state tournament was more fun and laid back.

“I will say being around people who like the same thing I do in both tournaments was amazing. I think everyone should shoot trap.”

 

BENJAMIN STULL

Age: 17

School: Benjamin is going to be a senior during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years of shooting: 2 (Benjamin has been shooting since he was 15 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “My dad shot in a couple of leagues and I found it very interesting.”

Enjoyment/appreciation of clay target shooting: “I think it’s really cool. I had a perfect score shooting one time, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “States felt like a normal shoot and it was fun, but I enjoyed nationals more because it was a whole new adventure. It was awesome.”

 

BLAKE BERGEY

Age: 16

School: Blake is going to be a junior during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years shooting: 2 (Blake has been shooting since he was 14 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “I became interested in clay target shooting through school.

“My dad (Randy Bergey) does it for fun. He introduced me to guns and hunting.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “It’s a lot of fun. At first, I wasn’t that good. But, a lot of people taught me how to get better so I can improve on my shooting.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “Both tournaments are under a lot of pressure. I love the environment and competitiveness of each, though.

“I enjoyed nationals more because we made a whole trip out of it.”

 

BLAKE WEEKS

Age: 16

School: Blake is going to be a junior during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years shooting: 2 (Blake has been shooting since he was 14 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “I’ve been watching my parents shoot trap since I was little. Once McGraw (High School) offered a clay target league I was super interested.

“My father (Ryan Weeks) has been my biggest inspiration because he’s a big-time hunter.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “Watching others shoot and compete, you really appreciate the variety of styles people shoot. Everyone has their own style of shooting. I’m always looking to improve my stance, shooting, and basically anything that’ll help me get better.”

“It gets competitive with friends. It’s fun to see who will beat each other.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I’ve been to nationals twice. The state tournament was fun, but nationals is crazy. There were a lot of good shooters to compete against.”

 

JAYDON BASSETT

Age: 15

School: Jaydon is going to be a sophomore during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years shooting: 3 (Jaydon has been shooting since he was 12 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “My dad shoots for fun. He took me to the (Blodgett Mills) Sportsmen’s Club once for the first time and I shot a perfect score (25 out of 25). I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “It’s just very competitive. I love it.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I thought the state tournament was awesome, but that changed when I went to nationals. Seeing the competitiveness and experience of nationals was eye-opening.”

 

ZANDER WEEKS

Age: 14

School: Zander is going to be a freshman during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years shooting: Zander has been shooting for over a year.

How interest in clay target shooting began: “My interest came from my brother, Blake. I also just wanted to prove I’m better than him.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “It’s a lot of fun and something different. My teammates are always motivated to do better. I’m looking forward to continuing to compete in high school.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I loved competing at both tournaments. There’s a lot of good shooters. I love the competition of each tournament.”

 

MASON ALLEN 

Age: 13

School: Mason is going to be an eighth grader during the 2021-22 school year at McGraw High School.

Number of years shooting: A year (Mason has been shooting since he was 12 years old).

How interest in clay target shooting began: “I shot once last year and I liked it so I kept going. My brother (Lucas Allen) also got me interested in it. We have a connection with shooting outside of our brotherhood.”

Enjoyment/appreciation for clay target shooting: “My family members, including my cousin (Benjamin Stull), have a good mix of fun and competitiveness when they shoot. I love the balance of having a good time, but also competing to see who will beat who. I think it’s great that people have an opportunity to do this.”

State vs. National Tournaments: “I enjoyed nationals more. It’s a bigger stage and a better time. Everyone at nationals takes competition more seriously since there’s a big difference in size of competition between states and nationals.”