Season preview: shooting sports opens new era this weekend

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 13, 2018 in Trap & Skeet

It is now year five of existence for Concordia University’s shooting sports programs (formerly referred to as trap & skeet). Bulldog shooting sports now has more upperclassmen and experience than it has ever had before, something that will serve it well in a new era. Change has blown through the program in ways that will transform it in years to come.

For starters, shooting sports officially moved under the umbrella of the athletic department this past summer. For the first-time, Concordia shooting sports also has a full-time head coach. Previously the head coach at Simpson College (Iowa), Scott Moniot now takes the reins of the program. Dr. Joel Helmer, who started shooting sports at Concordia, will continue to serve the team, but in a new role as an assistant.

“I can’t tell you how very excited I am to be under the athletic department of Concordia University,” Moniot said. “(Director of Athletics) Devin (Smith) and (Associated Athletics Director) Angela (Muller) have been instrumental and extremely helpful in making adjustments and putting this together to make us successful. I can’t say enough about how appreciative I am of the whole staff and environment. I’m hearing from the kids already about how this is a great fit for them. A lot of the freshmen have said how the people here are wonderful and they love the environment and what Concordia stands for.”

Perhaps it won’t be long before it also stands for excellence in shooting sports. This season’s roster has exploded from 14 in 2017-18 to 33 in 2018-19. Thirteen of those roster members competed for the Bulldogs at this past spring’s Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Clay Targets Championships. The most accomplished of the group is senior Erin Lokke, who has twice earned a spot on the Collegiate USA Skeet Team.

A native of Saint Francis, Minn., Lokke again paced the Bulldogs on the national stage. Among all men’s and women’s competitors, Lokke (348/400) finished 194th on the overall leaderboard at the ACUI Championships. In an invitation only competition, Lokke finished third in ISO Skeet. Next in line behind Lokke, in terms of high overall, were teammates in Mackenze Origer (340/400), Ethan Cradick (334/400) and Mitchell Charron (329/400).

The returners on join on this season’s team by 20 newcomers. That list includes several who were either coached by Moniot at Simpson or had seriously considered shooting at Simpson. Moniot has already made mention of freshman Graham Friske (Waconia, Minn.) for his rapid improvement in just a short time on campus. Friske is also one of the least experienced shooters on the roster.

“Graham is out there starting to crush targets,” Moniot said. “He’s not the only one. He’s probably the one we’ve changed the most this quickly. He’s seeing huge success and has a smile on his face. That’s a win for everybody. That can happen for each one of them. I think they’re really enjoying the opportunity to compete.”

Since school began, Moniot has held four practices each week at the team’s home facility, Oak Creek Sporting Club (Brainard, Neb.), which Moniot calls one of the top courses in the nation. Each shooter is required to make at least two practices each week but can attend up to three per week by maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher. Because of the volume of shooters, Moniot and Helmer are able to give them more personal attention by splitting up their competitors throughout the week at practice.

So far, Moniot has been pleased with the attitude and the progress shown by his shooters. The returners are adapting quickly to new techniques and ways of doing things. Moniot’s been especially happy to see the way that Lokke has bought in.

“Her willingness to take instruction from a new coach has been refreshing,” Moniot said. “She’s a senior and she’s been working on her skillset for a while. She’s been coached totally different than how I’m coaching. She’s been very open to new ways and new styles and techniques that we’re working on with everybody. All of them have been really good about that. It’s been a great transition. They are applying themselves and I think we’re starting to see the results.”

While at Simpson, Moniot trained Maddy Bernau, who shot her way onto Team USA Shooting’s National Junior Team. As someone who has served as a coach and administrator for SCTP Junior Olympic Development Camps at the Olympic Training Center, Moniot knows talent when he sees it. The good news is that he sees talent right here at Concordia.

Says Moniot, “Every coach wants to come in and have a program and a regimen that help these kids understand the concept and take it to whatever level they decide to go to. It doesn’t work if a coach tries to push a kid who really doesn’t have that end goal. We have a couple kids here already who are thinking about Paris in 2024, which is the Olympics. We have a couple kids coming in here now that have the potential to do that if they apply themselves and learn their trade.”

It's time for this new era of Concordia shooting sports to get started. Every shooter on the roster will be traveling to Hays, Kan., for the Fort Hays State Fall Intercollegiate Shoot this Saturday and Sunday. For this first event, Moniot wants to accomplish more than just hitting a lot of targets. This is an event that will help lay the groundwork for what’s to come.

It’s a long season with the most significant event – the ACUI National Championships – coming up next spring. That gives Moniot and company time to develop before appearing on the national stage.

“The first event you’re hoping for cohesiveness,” Moniot said. “When we get down there, everybody will compete in two events and some will get to compete in the high overall and see how high we can place as a team. I’m not concerned about that. All of these events while they’re great in the fall, it’s more about getting better.”