CRESWELL, Ore. — Winter high school sports include basketball, wrestling, swimming and hockey. Another sport is making a name for itself in western Oregon: clay target shooting.
More than 50 students a week from western Oregon arrive for practice in Creswell. Just like other high school sport, they bring their gear–ear protection, eye protection, shells and a shotgun.
Their coach is Jay Waldron, a former Olympian who placed sixth in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. Now he’s coaching students ranging in age from 11-18. They include boys and girls representing Churchill, Cottage Grove, Creswell, Marist, Pleasant Hill, Springfield, Thurston, Willamette high schools.
One of them is Margo Werner. This is her first year on the team. Her first lesson: gun safety. All guns must have the action open and be unloaded unless on the range and ready to fire.
For those who’ve never been to a shooting range, it’s like an arcade game. Tokens are needed to operate the birds, also called clay pigeons. They’re activated by voice command. A loss means a missed bird–what you don’t want to hear. An “x” on the paper means you hit the target.
At the high school level, student compete on teams. There’s trap shooting, skeet shooting and sport clay shooting. Then there’s the Olympic level. Cade Miller is hoping for a spot on team U.S.A. in 2016.
“Really I’m training right now. I start and I’ve got a hopeful shoot in Fort Benning, Georgia,” Miller said.
Miller will continue shooting at Gonzaga as he pursues his Olympic quest. His lucky charm is a clothes pin he made for his mom. “It says ‘mom’ on one side and ‘focus’ on the other,” he said.
That’s what you will see here–a lot of parents involved in this sport coaching and keeping score.
The next competition is this weekend. So if you see lights shining off Highway 99, it’s Saturday night lights at the Cottage Grove-Eugene Sportsman Club.