The Belleville-Henderson Central School trap team got its start on a snowy 35-degree day last March.
The small, rural town of Belleville, nestled near the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, was the first in New York with a high school trap team, and the eagerness of the students was apparent from the start, cold and all.
“Not one kid wanted to get off the trap field,” said head coach David Winters, who is also the New York State Coordinator for the New York State High School Clay Target League. “They wanted to shoot another round. That’s how excited they were to participate in the sport and it just built from there.”
Belleville-Henderson Central School Superintendent Rick Moore was the catalyst for the trap program. He approached school administrators in early 2016 about establishing the team after discussing it with USA High School Clay Target League representatives at an event for educators in New York City.
A sign-up sheet was created to gauge interest at the school, which is one building serving students from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“Within a couple days that sheet had 35–40 students on it,” Winters said. “For a very small school of a couple hundred kids, that was a great response. So we took the next step to see if we could partner with the local game club and they were completely on board, 100 percent.”
That club is the Henderson Fish & Game Club, about five miles from the school. The school board shared the enthusiasm, and by late February, just five weeks after the idea was hatched, a trap team of 26 students from grades 6–12 was born.
The Belleville team, which is partnered with nearby Watertown, grew to 32 students in 2017 and the number of participating New York schools has grown from five to 19. Plus, Winters said he’s received interest from about 150 schools statewide based on what Belleville has done.
The team is made up of a good mix of males, females and ages, and almost all of the shooters are new to the sport, though some familiarity with firearms and hunting is common, Winters said. The learning curve for most has been steep, but improvement has been swift, with some students now outshooting coaches.
The community has rallied behind the team, both in a show of numbers at practices and competitions, and in fundraising, donations and volunteering. It cost students $250 each to be a part of the team last year, but Winters said fundraising efforts should keep membership below $100 in 2017.
Though only in its second year, the team has already had success, particularly with Watertown junior Owen Recore, who won the high gun varsity competition at the state championship in 2016. Recore has served as a great mentor and role model to younger students, Winters said, and the team as a whole interacts well.
“We have athletes and nonathletes on our team and they find commonality in the fact that they have a great activity they can share with friends in school,” he said. “They talk about how each other did and there’s some great camaraderie.”