The Wilton trap shooting team took to the practice range at Ike’s Trap Range in Muscatine for the final time of the season on Wednesday, June 2, before the state tournament in Cedar Falls this week, June 9-11.
Although part of the Wilton public school district, the trap team has a West Liberty presence. Assistant coach Stew Hodge and his wife, volunteer Roberta Hodge, help out with practices and competitions along with their son Kaden and daughter Morgan.
“They were some of the first kids on the team,” head coach Mark Henning said. “West Liberty’s been with us since day one once we got it up and going. They are very committed to what they’re doing. There aren’t many practices they miss.”
The trap team is for grades 5-12, as ninth-grader Kaden and eleventh-grader Morgan compete alongside another West Liberty student, sixth-grader Theo Solomon.
“They’ve all learned maturity through this sport and self-control as far as mind over matter,” Roberta Hodge said.
The team coexists with other extra-curricular activities and other commitments made by the students. Despite this, both Kaden and Morgan have made the all-academic team because of their grades.
“It’s part of the deal,” assistant coach and father Stew Hodge said. “If they want to continue doing this, they have to have the grades to support it.” Mother Roberta Hodge shares a similar sentiment.
“It teaches them time management skills and how to prioritize their activities throughout the day,” Hodge said.
Morgan Hodge started on the Wilton team in sixth grade, which inspired Kaden to start the year after when he was eligible in fifth grade. Their season is coming to an end after starting in September.
A Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), the team is in its fifth season. The club is self-funded, but still follows eligibility and behavioral guidelines put in place by the Wilton Public School District.
A regular season for the trap team involves practice every Wednesday starting at 4:30 p.m. with competitions every Saturday within a 60-mile radius. Starting in November, the team heads indoors for 3-4 classes on safety orientation. In the winter months, the team fundraises money and partners with sponsors. On March 1, the team moves their practices to the outdoors at Ike’s Trap Range in Muscatine.
As per the national rules of the SCTP, there are no tryouts for the team. Students from Wilton are picked first, then kids from around the area are picked in chronological order from when they applied. With 43 kids on the team this season, head coach Henning is eager to see the state competition to end the season.
“I’m looking forward to the state competition,” Henning said. “We have a lot of kids who are very competitive.”
Trap shooting is one of three shotgun competitions along with skeet shooting and sporting clays. Targets in trap shooting are launched from a single house, or launching machine, away from the shooter. Skeet shooting involves shooting at targets from a high house and low house in intersecting paths. Sporting clays involves multiple launching points. For Kaden Hodge, being involved in a sport such as this is something he takes pride in.
“We meet a lot of different people across the state and make a lot of great friends,” Kaden said.
As a mother, Roberta sees these friendships as something important to not only their kids, but others on the team as well.
“Seeing those friendships grow outside of the team is what we look forward to,” Hodge said.
After the state competition, the Hodges plan on participating in another competition in Sparta, Illinois.