Next Level

WHEN IT WAS FORMED IN 2014, the Mount Marty shotgun sports team was the first collegiate trap shooting club in South Dakota.

Its next target is to grow the only varsity team in the state by providing tal- ent-based scholarships to students who have a passion for shotgun sports. The private, four-year Catholic Benedictine college on the Missouri River bluffs has already approved the program’s varsity status. Now it’s up to head coach Randy Hummel to take it to that next level.

“Basically we need students to come in and say they’re coming here for the shooting program,” Hummel says. “And as soon as that happens, the school is going to pull the trigger. Almost everyone on my team right now has a scholarship in some other sport—tennis, golf, etc. We just need to get a group of kids interested in scholarships for the shotgun program.”

Hummel, a veteran 4-H shooting sports instructor, was asked to help out shortly after the team’s founding and quickly took over the role of head coach. At its start, students came out to try the sport, but nobody was really serious, Hummel says. The team has averaged eight to 10 members since then and it has gradually grown more competitive, shooting trap, skeet and sporting clays at both regional and national events.

The move to build a varsity program seemed like a natural transition that would benefit the school and community alike, Hummel says.

“We really feel strongly about the shooting sports,” he says. “We thought it was a good opportunity to get people coming to Yankton, and more people coming to Mount Marty if you have an opportunity to get a scholarship to do that.”

The college’s setting provides close access to national parks, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, making trap shooting a natural fit. The team practices a couple of times a week in the fall and spring at two nearby ranges: Jim River Trap Range and James Valley Range.

Though most students have some firearm experience, Hummel has also worked with newcomers to the sport. Everyone is welcome, he says, “If you come in with a background in shooting we will certainly work with you to get a scholarship and support, but anybody is welcome,” Hummel says. “If you want to show up and basically learn how to shoot, we will teach you that as well.”

And that has happened—Hummel has one athlete who started out shooting single digits in trap and now shoots in the 20s consistently and is one of the better shooters on the team.

“Anytime I can see a kid improve, I’m happy,” Hummel says. “Just the smile on her face and the enthusiasm she has makes it worthwhile for us.”

Though Hummel has started actively recruiting students to the college, he emphasizes that anyone interested in shooting sports at the college level first needs to find a match for their academic and career goals. Some of Mount Marty’s most popular academic programs include nursing and health care, recreation management and tourism, business, and education.

Team member Nathan List, a junior, is majoring in both recreation manage- ment and business administration. He’s on a scholarship for tennis, but has also shot trap since starting at the school. The college’s smaller size gives the students, staff and faculty a more close-knit feel, he says, and that carries to the trap team. He thinks the program’s varsity status will not only enhance the team, but also the sport at other colleges.

“I feel like it’s going to create more opportunities for Mount Marty in general, because you’re adding more variety to the varsity sports,” he says. “And being the only varsity shotgun sport in South Dakota creates opportunities for all of the other states around us and all of the other colleges that might want to do the same thing.”

Mount Marty covers the cost of targets, travel and entry fees and also provides some loaner firearms for use at practices and events. The team takes part in fund- raising efforts during the year to help offset those costs.

Though growing the team and succeeding in competitions is a goal moving forward, Hummel says his aim is broader than that.

“My biggest goal is that everyone on the team learns teamwork, that they learn what it takes to succeed,” He says. “And that they feel good about what they’re doing and build their self confidence. It’s always nice to win, but you don’t have to have the best score to have the best day.” 

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