CEDAR FALLS– The Cinderella story of the Solon Spartans Trap Shooting Team continues.
In just its second year as an independent team, Solon’s squad participated in a two-day state championship meet in Cedar Falls June 1 and 2, and fell just five points short of a state title.
The Spartan shooters, consisting of middle school and high school students, placed second in the overall Iowa Cup, which combines points from league scoring and two statewide tournaments.
Maquoketa scored 2,112 and Solon scored 2,107 out of 2,250 possible points for the cup.
The team has firmly established itself as one of the top teams in the entire state, according to head coach Scott Rath.
“When the day comes that Solon can build its own sanctioned home range there will be no limit to the team’s success and dominance,” Rath noted. “Having to train over battery-operated portable machines on a makeshift range has its limitations in training, in league scoring potential, and in competition opportunities.”
Up to half of a team’s individual league scores can be shot at its home range, Rath explained, but Solon must shoot every official score at an away site.
“It’s safe to say that disadvantage alone easily cost us more than five points over the course of a 1,000-point regular league season,” he said.
The Solon team has no permanent training range, he noted, and the nearest available trap ranges are a 60- to 80-mile round trip.
“Johnson County, for all its wealth and population, is the most desolate county in the state for shooting sports infrastructure, yet it has shown some of the most tremendous growth in youth participation of any county,” Rath continued. “It’s like building a powerhouse snowskiing team in a desert.”
Which makes the Solon team’s performance this season even more impressive.
In 2011, the Spartans surprised the field with a fourth-place overall finish at the state tournament. The team formed in 2010 with 10 members, and has since doubled in size twice, adding middle school shooters to the mix this year and finishing the season with 39 students on the roster.
The 2012 state tournament was held at the Cedar Falls Gun Club, home range of the Iowa State Trap Shooting Association, with Spartans competing in both the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and the Iowa High School State Trap Meet.
Fifteen middle school and 16 high school shooters competed for Solon in the nationally-sanctioned SCTP state competition on Friday, June 1. Participants shot 150 targets at 16 yards, in sets of 25 targets.
Solon Middle School Team Alpha finished in second place in the Intermediate Entry Level category. Members included Justin Gibbs, Nicholas Olney, Hunter Gehrke, Walker Sea and Joe Kral.
Eighth grader Teah Bartling, shooting on the Solon Bravo intermediate team, ended up in a tie for third place individual in the girls’ intermediate entry level division, and in the resulting shoot-off shot a perfect 25 out of 25 to take home third place.
The high school level white team, consisting of all first-year shooters, finished 13th out of 29 teams in the High School Junior Varsity Division. Members included Tyler Puettmann, Lee Colton, Raiden Takeuchi, Carter Koch and Ciara Erenberger.
The high school black team finished 11th out of over 60 teams in the High School Varsity Division.
The next day, 15 Solon High School shooters participated on three squads of five at the Iowa High School State Trap Meet. Shooters shot 50 targets from 16 yards, and 50 targets from 19 yards in rounds of 25 targets.
Solon Black, including Skyler Rath, Cody Fritz, Brandon Dvorsky, Easton Ressler and Wyatt Rath, finished third out of 145 teams. Ressler hit 98 out of 100 targets and ended up in a six-way tie for second place individual honors.
Logan Chaloupka, Sam Corrigan, Jeremiah Ziskovsky, Ben Lilleodden and Andy Nigg also participated as Solon’s Orange team.
Additionally, Corrigan hit 97 out of 100 targets, and Raiden Takeuchi hit his first perfect 25 straight in the second set of 16-yard targets.
Solon placed third overall in the state meet.
The results of those two competitions, when combined with regular season scoring, comprise the overall statewide award, the Iowa Cup. Solon placed second in the Iowa Cup behind Maquoketa, and ahead of perennial powers New Hampton, Charles City and Osage.
The Spartans finished third in the state for league scoring, finishing no lower than second place in any of the 19 invitationals they entered during the season.
The top four scores of the top five shooters from each team statewide are ranked for All-State honors, with Skyler Rath, Cody Fritz, Easton Ressler, Sam Corrigan and Logan Chaloupka placing third for Solon. Rath finished second in the state in league totals prior to the state competitions.
While the Spartans may have fallen short of the overall title, “the achievements and successes of all of our shooters could never be fully enumerated or quantified,” coach Rath noted. “Not one team member ended this season without major personal achievement and improvement and participation. I’m very proud of every single one of them and the smiles that light up their faces as they each achieved new personal bests and discovered abilities they never knew they had will never be forgotten.”
Rath attributed some of the team’s success to volunteer assistants Gerald Chaloupka, Alan Ziskovsky and Allie Ziskovsky, as well as the parents who supported the program throughout the season.
“Everywhere we competed, other coaches and range officials went out of their way to compliment our Solon kids for their superb discipline, form and skills on the range,” Rath commented.
While the team is still searching for a permanent, local range to call home, Rath is hopeful the squad’s accomplishments will help make that a reality.
“Nobody ever sits on the bench and no one has any limitations in this Olympic-level sport that has males and females and even physically-challenged youth, sometimes in wheelchairs, shooting shoulder-to-shoulder as equally respected and fully capable teammates,” he said.