LOCATED ABOUT 130 MILES NORTHWEST OF THE TWIN CITIES, the Alexandria lakes region of Minnesota is a popular destination for those looking for a magical summer getaway. There’s also another gem in the area, but it’s not hidden, at least to those participating and following the USA High School Clay Target League. That gem is Alexandria Shooting Park, home to 20 trap fields, including four that are lighted, a voice release system, a skeet field, 146 campsites, and banquet facilities. Alexandria Shooting Park is also home to the Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship and each summer approximately 330 teams featuring over 8,300 student athletes convene at the site, along with family and friends over nine days, to compete in the world’s largest trapshooting tournament.

With access to world-class facilities in their own backyard and rapid growth of the sport, it made sense for Alexandria Technical & Community College (Alexandria College) to add Clay Target League as the first varsity athletics program in 15 years at the public community college with approximately 4,000 students. So they did just that in 2019. The school was already a major sponsor of the Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship, so adding a team to the burgeoning USA College Clay Target League seemed like a natural next step. “Our sponsorship and booth at the Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship has given us the opportunity to showcase our programs and offerings to thousands of Minnesota high school students and their families,” said Nichole Aber, marketing and communication specialist for Alexandria College. “We have enjoyed the opportunity to engage students in demonstrations, activities, and conversations with staff and program
faculty. Students and their parents from all over the state have learned about our college and programs they didn’t know we offered. They also get to experience the Alexandria community and all that it has to offer.
“We encourage our students to live their passions while getting an education, even offering sporting storage for students to store snowmobiles, ATVs, and other outdoor toys.”

Alexandria College is coached by Tom and Cindy Townsend, a husband and wife duo who manage Alexandria Shooting Park where the team practices (less than 5 miles from campus) and Blaine Gulbranson. Tom and Cindy have been coaching at the Park since the 1980s. “It’s extremely important to us to teach safety, respect, and camaraderie, in that order,” says Cindy Townsend. “This is a sport you can participate in your entire life. We all
don’t have the athletic capabilities some have, but can hit a target quite well. Trapshooting is very much a mind game and how you focus determines how well you will do. It can be all about you and your attitude that will get you a winning score. I’ve always told the kids, ‘focus on that one and only’ forget about what you’ve lost because you will never get that
one back. Don’t let it get you down.” A total of 23 student athletes participated in that inaugural season in the fall of 2019 and another 23 competed in 2020. Alexandria College competes in the Minnesota Collegiate
Athletic Conference (MCAC) against other technical and community colleges throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The sport has earned emerging sport status from the National Junior College Athletic Association, the governing body of two-year and technical school athletics, so opportunities to compete on the national level could soon be
on the horizon.

Alexandria College won the 2019 MCAC Fall Championship, 2020 MCAC regular season title, and finished second in the 2020 MCAC Championship.
In addition to the varsity team, Alexandria College offers a more casual trapshooting club and is gauging interest in an outdoors club for students to explore the outdoors in other ways (fishing, hiking, and snowmobiling). Alexandria College already has an excellent academic reputation, with 98% of graduates placed in jobs upon graduation. Now it has a few more resources to attract students, such as a clay target team and trapshooting club. “It’s this blend of lifestyle and education that is a draw,” says Aber. “It’s our secret sauce; more than 40 academic programs from skilled trades to liberal arts, plus the abundant outdoor activities and vibrant community only available in the Alexandria lakes area.”