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Pull! Cambridge Trap Shooters Develop Skills That Last a Lifetime

One of the most underrated skills is the ability to hit a blue rock. So much is involved, from the mental and physical challenges, and just go ahead and throw Nebraska's weather into the mix. We recently spent some time at the Cambridge Trap Team's practice to see how things operate and visit with some of the competitors on the team. We also had the chance to get some comments from two of the three coaches. This is a trap team that has Cambridge students who participate. Coaches for the Cambridge Team include Tom and Jackie Shoemaker, and Jason Weiss. Cambridge's Trap Team is part of the Mid-Nebraska Trap Conference.

Cambridge also has a 4-H club that does this too, like many other counties and communities.

Trapshooting is one of those sports that flies under the radar a little bit. We weren't aware of the popularity of the sport among students who attend RPAC schools. When reaching out, we heard back from a number of schools mentioning that their students participate in trap clubs. As we said Cambridge is one along with Wallace, Arapahoe, Bertrand, Dundy County Stratton, and Medicine Valley all said they have kids that participate.

Schools have done a wonderful job of accommodating and working with the schedules that are laid out for trap shooting events.

Cambridge has practice each week at the Arapahoe Area Izaak Walton. Then on Saturdays in March and April, the team goes to Doniphan for competitions. The state meet is in Doniphan, and takes place this week on May 2nd-4th.

The format of these competitions is as follows: Junior High kids shoot a 50-rock session.  They shoot 25 and then follow up with another 25.  They are scored on how many rocks they shoot out of those 50.  Senior High kids shoot two sets of 50 for a total of 100 rocks.  The first 50 are shot at the 16-yard event.  Then the second 50 is what they call Handicapped.  They take the score you shot in the 16-yard session and divide it by two and then you shoot from that distance. So if competitors shoot 50 out of 50 you have to move back to the 25-yard spot on the trap.  Naturally, the further back you go, the more challenging it gets.  There are awards given for each session of 16's, Handicaps, and All-Around.

In terms of scoring, naturally, a perfect score would be 50 out of 50. Awards are given for 25 out of 25 and 50 out of 50.

For Cambridge, it is a sport that has grown. Tom Shoemaker, one of the coaches, highlights how the shooting sports team for Cambridge came about and expanded. "Historically it had solely been through the 4-H group called Youth Forever Shooting Sports.  While we still shoot through the 4-H and all of our students are members of the 4-H group a group of kids and their parents wanted to shoot more competitively and get more exposure to the Doniphan facility.  So at that time, we decided it was important for our kids to shoot more regularly at Doniphan where the state shoot for 4-H is every year."

Part of the decision to grow it was to get the kids more comfortable with the number of people who compete at the event each year. "We found that when our kids went there only once during the year it was overwhelming to them because it is a large facility with nearly 1,200 shooters. So a couple years ago Jackie and I reached out to the Mid-Nebraska Trap Conference out of Grand Island and asked if we could join.  We went to the school and asked if they would allow us to do this with the kids and they were very supportive to our endeavor," Added Shoemaker.

Needless to say, it is a passion for everyone involved.

Jackie said for her it's fun because she gets the chance to watch the kids improve in the sport. "I love the opportunity to watch the kids continue to improve and grow in this sport. I enjoy that this sport can teach them so much but it can also give them opportunities past High School."

For Tom, it's about lifelong skills too. "I feel it is important for kids to have diverse opportunities and maybe find a sport that is 100% equal.  Virtually anyone can do shooting sports and do it successfully.  Additionally, I really like the teaching aspect.  My previous profession was in the golf industry and doing golf instruction.  Trap kind of takes me back to those days as this sport is very similar to Golf.  I really enjoy teaching the mental side of the sport and about how kids should handle adversity, stay relaxed, and forget quickly about our failures.  I carry those things into the life skills of kids.  If I can enhance their lives by teaching them it is ok to miss we just have to move on to the next rock, then they can take that thinking with them in their personal lives.  It's important for kids to take shots at lofty goals in life and have high expectations in themselves.  If they do this they all can be very successful at whatever they set their minds to."

Jackie says it's a great challenge for the kids too. "This sport challenges the kids to be mentally tough and to face the challenges that happen."

As previously stated, we had the chance to visit with a handful of the participants on the team in Cambridge; Sophomores Aspen Webb, Maverick Webb, Carter Shoemaker, and senior Brohdey Wood. They all had some interesting thoughts about the sport. From how it's different from the other events they are involved in and why they enjoy it.

"My favorite part about trapshooting is I get to be outside and I get to be with my friends," said Aspen Webb. For Aspen, family influence was a big reason as to why she began trapshooting, including her cousin Maverick who is on the team too. "My dad was in trapshooting and my cousin Maverick does trapshooting, they all were like hey you should try it out." Aspen is the only girl on the Cambridge team. She mentioned that the boys will poke fun at her, but it is all in good fun.

For Maverick Webb, getting into trapshooting has family roots too. "It's been in my family for a while. Both of my grandpas were into trap when they were my age Then my dad got into trap too." Maverick participates in football, basketball and golf too. We asked him how trapshooting may differ from the other sports he participated in. "A lot of different people get together for this sport."

As we said Aspen is Maverick's cousin, but so is Carter Shoemaker. Maverick said he enjoys being able to be on a team with them. "Oh, it's great. We're always around each other, it's cool we talk about it (trapshooting) all of the time. It's a fun thing," added Maverick.

Carter Shoemaker, the son of Tom and Jackie, also likes the social aspect of trap shooting and. "I get to hang out with my friends and shoot trap with's pretty fun. He also said he really enjoys competition day each week, and there are no nerves for him when he competes. "Not really, it's just another day I get to shoot trap."

Brohdey Wood says that he gets a ton of joy when shooting trap. "There's nothing that is much more satisfying than shooting and feeling the recoil of a shotgun and seeing that blue rock powderize." Brohdey also said it's a great way to hang out with his friends from Cambridge but also make new friends from other towns. "I've made a couple (friends.) Everyone is really supportive of one another. If you miss a blue rock and look over somebody will give you a thumbs up and say you'll get the next one."

We asked both Tom, Jackie, and a couple of the competitors about firearm safety too. It's a big deal, which was expected. "Firearm safety is top priority.  We always go over safety and make sure our kids are following those guidelines if actions open, barrels in a safe direction, safety on, and keeping our guns facing down range when loaded. All of our kids have passed the Hunter Safety course.  Historically shooting sports is one of the safest sports kids can be involved with when you think of all the other sports that either have physical impact or potential for injury shooting sports are far safer than others and we want to keep it that way," said Tom.

"Also most, if not all of the kids have grown up around family that have shown them how important gun/firearm safety is," added Jackie.

"It's very important. Knowing when to have your action open, when to have it closed...know when to have your shell in your gun and ready to go, and when to have your safety on and safety off," added Aspen.

The 54th Annual Cornhusker Trap Shoot is set for May 2nd-4th on the grounds of the Nebraska Trapshooting Association in Doniphan, NE. The location of the event is three miles south of I-80 exit 312, on U.S. HWY 281. More than 2,400 students from grades 6-12 are expected to be in attendance according to the Nebraska Game and Parks website. Also, shooters from Missouri, Colorado, Kansas, and South Dakota will be there.


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