WEST QUINCY, Mo. -- The Quincy Quivering Clays trap shooting team beat out more than 30 other squads to finish first in a statewide competition last weekend.
Competing in the open division at the Illinois State Scholastic Clay Target Program Championship on Saturday, June 24, at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Ill., the five-member team hit 924 of 1,000 targets to clinch the win. More than 400 people shot in the competition across all divisions.
"We've been shooting well all year," said Payton Giesing, who has been shooting since he was 9. "We thought we might win some, but we didn't expect to be champions at the very end."
On the open division team were Giesing, Landon Cantrell, Lawren Ruths, Marcus Reed and Justin Daugherty. Coach Tom Cantrell said, for a team to succeed, all of its members have to mesh well.
"We were confident going in," Ruths added. "We shoot together multiple times a week. We trust in each other."
Each member of the team competes individually, shooting in eight 25-target rounds.
"It doesn't look physical, but when you hold a gun up for over an hour, and you're shooting and it's recoiling, it takes a lot out of you," said Chris Wegs, who also coaches the team.
Wegs said the team seems to thrive on the pressure of competition.
"When they get down there and start shooting, they take it serious and do quite well," he said.
The teammates, some of whom have been shooting for almost a decade, have learned responsibility, respect and dedication over the years.
"You have to respect what you're doing, especially when you're out there with a dangerous object," Wegs said, noting that many of the squad's former shooters have gone on to careers in the military. "It makes you proud. They probably would have done it some place else, but you're giving them a program to hone their skills and getting them plugged in."
The team, which has been active since 2001, recently saw its first second-generation competitor, when the daughter of a former shooter joined.
"It takes a lot of dedication, from the kids and their parents," Wegs said.
The team practices every Wednesday -- although the Gun Club in West Quincy is closed on Wednesdays, owner Jim Rice opens it for the Quivering Clays -- and most shooters also practice elsewhere throughout the week. They shoot almost every week of the year.
"When they get out there, it's all concentration. No smack talk," Tom Cantrell said. "They're a great group of kids, and they enjoy each others' company. They consider each other a family."
The Quivering Clays team hopes to compete at the SCTP Nationals July 8 to 15 in Marengo, Ohio. The team is seeking sponsors to help offset the cost of the trip and the stay.
"We're just going to stay in the same mindset," Landon Cantrell said. "We just go out there and shoot and don't worry about anything else."