Charles City trap shooting state champs remain active in sport
By John Burbridge
NASHUA — The State Trap Shooting Championships often end in shoot-offs.
And shoot-offs end when there is a last man standing.
Or last woman standing.
The Charles City/Nashua-Plainfield High School Trap Shooting Team has had four shooters emerge on top at the state meet in varsity singles competition after the smoke had cleared. The most recent was from the last meet.
In arguably one of the greatest performances at the state championships, Colton Crooks hit a perfect 200 of 200 in the standard rounds, and then went 49 of 50 in the subsequent shoot-offs with his only miss the entire weekend coming from the increased shoot-off distance of 22 yards.
A 2022 Charles City graduate, Crooks now shoots for the Hawkeye Community College Sports Shooting Team.
With the RedTails, Crooks won his second meet of his collegiate shooting career (by way of a shoot-off against two of his teammates) and has helped HCC remain undefeated this fall in trap singles competition.
“Shooting in college is not any harder than shooting in high school,” Crooks said. “It’s just that most everyone is a good shot when you reach the college level.”
Crooks also shoots skeet and sporting clays — the latter often referred to as “golf with a shotgun” because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain.
Crooks says he enjoys both shooting disciplines, though he says he’s still in the process of mastering skeet.
Recently, Crooks and fellow former CC/NP champions Austin Gerber, Cody Mercer and Izzy Worrall gathered for a group photo at their former high school trap shooting grounds — the Nashua Fish and Game Club.
Mercer was the team’s first champion in 2010. At the state meet, Mercer hit 99 of 100 before winning the title with a subsequent 25-of-25 shoot-off round.
Mercer was one of the organizers of the inaugural TJ Houdek Trap Shoot Memorial held semi-annually at the Nashua Fish and Game Club. Mercer was a high school trap shooting teammate and a close friend of Houdek, who died during the summer of 2016 when his motorcycle collided with a truck within the notorious Highway 218 intersection in Floyd which is being transformed into an overpass.
Gerber won his state title in 2014 after hitting all 100 of his initial clay targets ahead of winning the shoot-off.
Gerber coaches the Butler County Shooting Sports, a team formed in 2021 consisting of North Butler and Clarksville students.
“Most of it is mental,” Gerber says of what makes a deadeye shooter. “It’s a mind game you need to master to stay focused. That is what I try to coach to my shooters. Hopefully, they’ll get it down.”
Worrall, who won the women’s varsity title outright in 2015 when she hit 96 of 100 clays, is also a shooting coach — an assistant at Riceville where she now lives.
She concurs with Gerber that good shooting requires mental focus.
“You need the right mind set … and proper feet placement,” Worrall said.
Worrall wasn’t a natural deadeye when she first joined the CC/NP team as a freshman. In her first meet, she didn’t reach double-digits in hit clays in 50 shots attempts.
By the time she was a junior, she was a state champion.
She continued to shoot well her senior season, but in her quest for a back-to-back title, didn’t place at the state meet.
“I got a new gun and I had trouble adjusting to it,” she said.
After the pandemic wiped out the 2020 high school trap shooting season, the CC/NP team helped form a HS fall league later that year. The fall league has remained in place since then with the third season recently coming to a close.
“We had some shooters get their first 25s,” CC/NP head coach Mike Oleson said of budding shooters — maybe future state champs — recording their first 25-of-25 round this past fall season.