The Marcus High School Clay Target team recently won the title of State Champions in only the fifth year of the competition.
Clay targets are also called clay pigeons, relating to when live-pigeon competitions were held, especially in England. Although such competitions became illegal in 1921 in the United Kingdom, a target may still be called a “bird,” a hit may be referred to as “dead” and a missed target as a “bird away;” the machine which projects the targets is still known as a “trap.”
“The hard work and dedication it takes to win state, after just five years since inception, shows the commitment of the athletes and parents,” Assistant Coach Glen Smoot said. “Most of the athletes had never competed in this sport before participating on the Marcus Team.”
The Marcus Clay Target Team competitive shooting team was started in 2011 with 23 members and is considered a club sport at Marcus High School (MHS). The 2015-2016 team had 56 members and is part of the Youth Target Foundation (YTF), with MHS being the first team that the YTF started in Texas. The team shoots American skeet, trap and sporting clays.
Clay pigeon shooting has at least 20 different forms of regulated competition called disciplines, although most can be grouped under the main headings of trap, skeet, and sporting. The English Sporting discipline has the sport’s biggest following.
Olympic Trap is a separate discipline. A trench in front of the shooting stands conceals 15 traps arranged in five groups of three. In the Rio Olympics, competitors will compete to reach the podium in nine-men’s and six-women’s events– all individual. A supreme test of accuracy, shooting made its Olympic debut at Athens 1896, the first Games of the modern era
“Team members are first expected to be good citizens,” Smoot said. “Courteous, respectful and responsible are hallmarks of the quality members we have attracted so far. Building on those qualities, each member is instructed in safety, etiquette and the nuances of the sport.”
After satisfactorily completing the initial stages of training, each athlete is trained in the use of the appropriate firearm and the skills needed to competently and consistently break target clays.
“Most athletes reach a minimum level of competency relatively quickly and continue through drill and practice to build their skills and scores to competitive levels.”
Smoot said that clay shooting has become one of the fastest growing sports in Texas, with now more than 2,000 competitors on over 150 teams throughout the state.
One such competitor is Smoot’s son, Caleb, who said he joined the team at Marcus because he wanted a chance to compete.
“At a 6A school of over 3,000 students, it is common for kids to find that they are sitting on the bench a lot more than they expected to,” Caleb Smoot said. “On the Marcus Clay Target team, everyone gets to participate and compete as much as they want to and you make very strong friendships with the others on the team.”
Caleb, 18, said that winning a state championship is unlike anything he has ever experienced.
“The state title feels like the crowning achievement in what has been four hard years of work, thousands of miles driven and shells spent,” Caleb said. “I felt like we weren’t just winning for ourselves, but everyone who had helped us along the way.”
Caleb is also an Eagle Scout who is headed to Texas A&M University in the fall where he plans to compete on the shooting team.
Visit www.marcusclaytarget.com for more information on the Marcus High School Clay Target Team.