Even when your high school is comprised of three different small towns like Sioux Valley’s in South Dakota, you still very much have that tight-knit community. It was that closeness throughout the school district that led to the conversation of starting a South Dakota State High School Clay Target League team two years ago. There was just one slight hurdle: none of the interested parties were trap shooters.

“None of us were really what you would call active trap shooters when we
started,” Sioux Valley head coach Mike Hornick said with a laugh. “But like the
students, everyone involved just kind of got into it.
“We’re a small school, so when I went to the school board members and no
one had any objection, we kind of just ran with it. That’s the benefit of being in a small community: I know several of the board members personally and we got the support from them and the athletic director and superintendent—then it was a go.”

Hornick and the Sioux Valley team officially hit go in the spring of 2019. That first season opened with 24 full-time participants. With the ability to open up the team to grades 6-12, Hornick said his team attracts boys and girls of varying degrees of experience. “There’s a gun culture per se in South Dakota, and it’s limitless as far as the shooting sports and activities we have available across our state,” said Hornick, who was introduced to the sport through his sons, Chris and Joe, both members of the Sioux Valley team. “We have a lot of students who participate in 4H, or live and breathe activities like duck hunting and pheasant hunting. There’s a lot of bird
hunting in our area of South Dakota in particular, so we find a very easy transition into trap shooting with that.”

Payton Lemme had always wanted to get a head start on pheasant shooting
practice, one of his favorite activities, when his dad brought it up to him after school one day last year. This fall, Lemme shot a perfect 25 for the first time. “My favorite part about trap shooting is just being around my friends and having a good time shooting clays,” said Lemme. “It’s a really fun way to spend time after school—and gives you a head start on hunting season so you’re not missing all of your shots.”

Watching the team bond together and support one another has been
Hornick’s favorite part of coaching as well. It’s the main reason he wanted to bring a team to the school district: to build on that already strong community spirit. “The kids are the reason we do this, always,” said Hornick. “They just jell and work together and encourage one another. It’s great fun to watch them really be a team and help one another. It’s a sport that anyone can participate—athletic or not—so to be able to provide students with that opportunity to get that team camaraderie, well, you can’t beat it.”