High-school teams in Rapid City have struggled in recent years to compete with Sioux Falls teams in some sports. But they dominate in others, especially trapshooting.
With many state championships and even state titles to its credit, the youth trapshooting program in Rapid City continues its tradition of excellence. That means lots of practice and beginning team shoots when there's still snow on the ground and a wintry chill in the air.
Mike Kintigh, a state Game, Fish & Parks Department official who helps coach the high-school-age team, said during a practice last week that the team had already had several practices this year.
"I feel like it, when there's snow out here, but it's not too early," Kintigh said. "We shoot year round."
They shoot well any time of year, but are limited by target-throwing machines in underground trap houses that get cantankerous in the cold. That means practice usually isn't held until the temperature is above freezing.
"We've actually put space heaters in the houses and warmed them up so we should shoot," Kintigh said. "But guys don't want to stand out there when it's that cold too long."
Sharp-eyed teenage shooters will endure some discomfort, however, to get an early start on the noisy sport they love. Austin Duvall of Rapid City says he loves trapshooting because it takes him outdoors, almost any time of the year.
"That's probably the thing I look forward to the most about the wintertime, is when do I get to start trapshooting," Duvall said. "I love that it's not an indoor sport. That's probably the funnest part."
Busting clay targets isn't a bad part, either. But it doesn't come easy.
Team member Hunter Weaver of Rapid City said succeeding at the sport takes "practice, lots of practice, and self-discipline."
It takes a sharp eye and steady hand as well. Team members show that during noisy practice sessions where whizzing clay saucers rarely land in one piece.
The team's goal this year is to win state as usual, but also to shoot for a bigger title that Rapid City teams have won in the past.
"We're gearing up to take them to the nationals in Sparta, Ill., come August, and hoping they can do real well there, bring home a trophy," Kintigh said.
That means firing away in all kinds of weather, including the cold. That doesn't bother Weaver.
"It gets a little cold but when you're shooting you don't really notice it," Weaver said. "I guess it doesn't really make that big of a difference."
It's a big chore and expense to take the team to nationals, and Weaver said the prospect of being part of the tournament is "unreal."
"I've always wanted to go to nationals, so this will be pretty cool" Weaver said.
Which is different than pretty chilly.