Max Early knows how to knock down a target, but it's watching his teammates shoot that has him excited these days.
The La Crosse Central High School sophomore is in his second year on the trap shooting team, and enjoying all that comes with being part of the fastest-growing sport in the United States.
"It's not just like shooting, it's about learning about it," he said. "Just a good time to get everyone out here shooting."
On Monday nights this spring, Early and about 45 other La Crosse-area students are sharing their passion for guns, and the outdoors, as members of the La Crosse Central-Logan Trap Team. They fire at 50 clay targets each night of competition over a five-week period at the Chaseburg Rod and Gun Club, with additional nights for practice and reserve rounds (in case of rain outs). Scores are submitted to the Wisconsin State High School Clay Target League, where the team competes against similar-sized schools in one of 10 conferences.
After starting with 15 members in its first season, the team has grown significantly in size this season. there are boys and girls, students from middle school and high school, and even shooters that come from Westby to make up the roster. The La Crosse Aquinas High School team also shoots alongside its city rivals.
According to the League, Central-Logan's growth follows a statewide trend. There are nearly 1,500 students from 65 teams participating this season, a jump of 500 from 2015.
While winning a state championship is the team's ultimate goal, Central-Logan head coach Cole Woods said his ultimate wish is for his shooters to become better sportsmen.
"They don't have to be trap shooters, I just want to see better hunters out there," Woods said. "Taking care of places like this. We don't have people doing stuff like this, places like Chaseburg Rod and Gun won't be around."
Woods also said his students have improved each night on the range, raising their score by an average of two targets per night..
"We're onward and upward. You can see the improvement, the smiles on the faces when their scores keep going up," said Woods, who's an accomplished trap shooter himself in Wisconsin. "They're setting goals and they're knocking them down."
Through three weeks of competition, Central-Logan ranks second in its conference behind River Valley High School. Once the regular season is over, everyone has the opportunity to compete at the state meet in June. Woods said he hopes to have as many students compete as possible.
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