HERMISTON — There’s a lot that stands out when it comes to Hermiston’s Thomas Mabbot. He stands a few inches taller than his trap shooting teammates, his curly red hair can barely be contained under a hat with the well-known ‘H’ on the front and according to him, he competes in one of the most unique sports open to high schoolers.
“It’s truly unique,” Mabbot said when asked to try and explain it to those who aren’t familiar.
Soon at the Hermiston Gun Club, Mabbot was joined by five other teammates, all of whom will be making this trip to the first-ever trap shooting national championships. The USA High School Clay Target League will bring together over 2,000 student athletes to compete for the sport’s highest honor. It’s been four years in the making, but the growth of the trapshooting isn’t a surprise to Hermiston’s shooters, who have seen their league grow since its start three years ago.
One of the biggest reasons for trap shooting’s growth is its accessibility to both boys and girls as well as young adults with disabilities.
As the six teenagers are sprawled across a bench with trap houses evenly tucked away in the gravel behind them, they echo that very message.
“Its not hard to get into and there’s lots of people to help you,” one said across the table.
“Anyone can do it,” another added.
“Even if you’ve never shot a gun before,” Mabbot said, “you can come out and start trap shooting. It’s not a hard sport to get into.”
While some on Hermiston’s team have been shooting longer than others, Mabbot picked up the sport in seventh grade and willfully admitted that up until this year, he wasn’t good.
“I used to be terrible at it, and I guess this year I got good,” he said. “I used to think it was all about shooting, but it’s all mental. That’s the hardest part, you just have to get your brain right.”
This season, Mabbot’s brain and shot are right on target as he had the best finish in the state tournament this past weekend. Mabbot led Hermiston to its third-consecutive state title with a second-place finish (99 points). He claimed the No. 2 spot after a tie-breaking reverse run with Newberg’s Ryan Kramer.
“It was some of the best I ever shot,” Mabbot said. “I was really happy with it. I don’t even know what else to say, it was really fun.”
Also pitching into the three-peat was Mitchell Pimentel, who placed third (98); Tyler Pearson, who finished tied for seventh place (97); and Kaden Smith, who also finished in a three-way tie for 10th place (96). Cole Smith, Tyson Stocker and Chase Smith all tied for 13th place (95) with other athletes from Arlington, Madras, Mountain View and Estacada.
Hermiston has continued to dominated in a league that went from three teams in its first year to now nearly 25 teams across Oregon state. The team’s lasting success is in part due to the knowledge of the coaching staff including head coach and long-time trap shooter, John Adams, and also their efforts both during the season and in their free time.
“Our coaches, a lot of us have shot a long time and just a lot of practice,” Mabbot attributed as the keys to Hermiston’s success. “Right now, we’re ranked third in the nation for high school teams and not a lot of people realize how many teams there are. There’s 8,000 kids alone in Minnesota that shoot so there’s a lot of teams.”
Before the team had only one goal: a state title. Since successfully defending that title three times, Hermiston has set its sights on a national championship. One that is in reach for the six-person squad making the trip. With averages ranging from 23.7 to 24.7 — Mabbot again leading the group — Hermiston is in a good position to take home a national title.
“Last year I would have been really nervous,” Mabbot said. “Maybe for some other people too, but this year I’m not. I know if I stick to my routine I’ll be fine.”
Nationals will take place July 12th-15th at the MTA Homegrounds in Mason Michigan.