Trap Shooting a prime activity for social distancing, North Ridgeville coaches say

By Dylan Reynolds – The Chronicle

Trap shooting a prime activity for social distancing, North Ridgeville coaches say

LORAIN — There are not many sports that, by their nature, require participants to stand 6 feet apart at all times. But that is the case for the sport of trap shooting, and North Ridgeville High School team coach Ben Gommel said these days of social distancing offer a perfect opportunity for the activity.

“The (shooting) stations are well over 6 feet apart,” he said. “We’re trying to keep distancing as best as we can.”

The North Ridgeville team held its first practice of the season Sunday at Sportsmen’s Gun and Reel Club on Middle Ridge Road. After getting the go-ahead to practice, the team will participate in a modified season without a state or national championship.

Despite the shortened season, team member Rhiannon Vance, a sophomore, said the fact that she and her teammates can continue shooting at all is a good reminder that activities can go on with the proper safety precautions in place. Vance is the fall 2019 varsity state ladies champion.

North Ridgeville is a member of the USA Clay Target League, composed of more than 32,000 students across the country. Twelve schools in Ohio participate; Gommel and coach Mark Meincke said North Ridgeville is the only one in Lorain County. There are 45 members of the team this season.

In addition to giving athletes a chance to improve their marksmanship with clay targets, the league also puts a heavy emphasis on proper firearm handling and safety. This year, firearm safety includes the additional step of regularly disinfecting the guns and coaches avoiding getting too close to team members during instruction.

Team member Vanessa Donato, a freshman, said she had never shot a gun before joining the team as an eighth-grader out of “pure curiosity.” In her first year on the team, she earned her way to becoming the spring 2019 varsity State ladies champion.

Donato was originally going to balance shooting with playing softball, but now that the softball season has been canceled due to coronavirus, she is looking forward to devoting her attention to the trap team this spring.

“When softball was canceled, I was bummed out,” she said. “But I also could spend more time shooting and getting better.” Besides winning the state championship medal, her greatest achievement in the sport thus far was hitting 99 out of 100 clay pigeons in a session.

Senior Patrick Casselberry has been on the team since it was founded in 2017, and he said it’s been a privilege to see more students interested in joining the team after seeing many of its members achieve success at the range.

That sentiment was echoed by senior Chase Vanbuskirk, who said he was excited for the opportunity to shoot on his school team and has stuck with it throughout high school.

As the team has doubled in size, Meincke said they’ve received great support from Sportsmen’s Gun and Reel Club, both financially and in offering a space to shoot that allows team members to stand at an acceptable social distance from each other.

“Our team is like a big family. We have moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas out here all the time,” Gommel said. “It’s a great group of people.”

By Dylan Reynolds – The Chronicle