Clay Crushers, a youth shooting sports team, has become popular locally

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2018 at 8:48 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

BARRE – Five members of the Orleans County Clay Crushers take turns on Sunday afternoon at one of the two traps at the Barre Sportsmen’s Club on Gray Road. Bryce Wilson, center, readies the shot. The Clay Crushers started 12 years ago with six youths. It has grown to 57 kids ages 12 to 18.

The Clay Crushers are hoping to have its members who live in the Albion school district be part of a new trap shooting team. That would follow Holley and Kendall, which have formed teams, with Holley starting last year and Kendall’s team formed this year. The Clay Crushers and Albion school district weren’t able to work out all the details in time for a team this year, but the Clay Crushers are hopeful there will be an Albion team next school year.

The Clay Crushers compete in the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP)/Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP).

Tommy Fox, right, takes aim at a target. Jeff Atwell, back, is one of the five coaches for the program. The youths pay $5 each week to shoot at 50 of the targets.

Chris Rice is the lead administrator and one of five coaches for the program. He shows the machine that sends out the targets at about 43 miles per hour. The machine is unpredictable for the shooters, sending the targets in different directions. The shooters are 16 yards away from the machine.

“I just enjoy and love to see the kids shooting,” said Chris Rice, who helped start the Clay Crushers. “It’s better than playing a video game. It’s something the kids can do with their father and grandfather.”

Ryan Krenning fires at a target. The students use shotguns for the target shooting.

There are two trap fields at the Barre Sportsmen’s Club. With 57 kids in the program, it takes about five hours on Sunday afternoon for all of them to get in their 50 shots. The microphones are voice activated. When the shooter yells “pull,” a target is released.

Jeff Atwell, president of the Barre Sportsmen’s Club, gives Austin Furness, 15, of Albion some advice. Atwell is one of five coaches for the team. The others include Chris Rice, Ryan Uderitz, Tim Brien and Mike Donahue.

Some of the shooters hit about 90 percent of the targets. Atwell said the beginners typically pick up the sport quickly. The key to hitting the targets: “focus” and “practice, practice, practice,” Atwell said.

Andrew Uderitz of Albion takes a shot at the trap target. The ammunition is donated by local sportsmen’s clubs and the Friends of the NRA.

Mike Donahue keeps track of the shooters’ scores. In many of the school competitions, teams don’t travel to compete, except for the state competition. They shoot at their home team trap fields. They then submit their scores online and compare with the other teams’. If Albion has a school team, they would compete at the Barre Sportsmen’s Club.

Atwell said competing with the school would give the Clay Crushers more events to compete in.

Jason Conn, 12, of Albion lets out a smile during target shooting on Sunday. He joined the Clay Crushers last month. He looks forward to going hunting.

“It keeps the kids’ away from video games,” said his mother Kelly Furness. “He likes being outside and he has great role models with the kids next to him.”

Clay Crushers are on the line at the trap field. This group includes, right to left: Sawyer Braley, Andrew Uderitz, Gage Brannon, Sarah Kingdollar and Brad Kingdollar.

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