The Los Banos Tigers Trap Team’s varsity squad made the trek to Sparta, Ill., last week for the AIM-ATA Grand Nationals, and came away with second place after hitting 987 out of 1,000 targets.
“Obviously, the boys did well,” Los Banos coach Darrell Mello said. “At one point, we did two rounds where it was a perfect score, where nobody missed. That’s 250 rounds with no misses. That was a highlight for us.”
The highest score of the bunch went to Aaron Baumgartner, who shot 199 of his 200 targets. Josh Lopes and Jared Crist each added 198, and D.J. Mello and Jason Chew each went for 196. The squad lost out to the Arkansas Razorbacks, an all-star team from The Natural State that shot 992.
“The team that beat us was awesome. They only dropped eight birds out of 1,000,” Mello said. “They were hand-picked from the state, plucked from different clubs. They put together a dream team, which was obviously very impressive. But my boys are all from the same club, we don’t stack nobody.”
The Los Banos squad carried an impressive resume into the national shoot as the first team to ever win all three California state championships – the CYSSA (California Youth Shooting Sports Association), the SCTP (Scholastic Clay Target Program) and the AIM (Academics, Integrity and Marksmanship, the youth arm of the Amateur Trapshooting Association).
“We had our shirts with all three logos on it, with 2014 state champions with AIM, CYSSA and SCTP. We were definitely qualified to make a national championship bid,” Mello said. “Last year we went with a JV team and came in seventh place. If we shot this score last year, we would have won hands down, but they had something like a 30 percent increase in participation.”
Lopes hit all 100 targets on the first day of competition, with Mello and Baumgartner right behind at 99. As a team, the Tigers were one target behind the Razorbacks after the first day, with another team from Arkansas tied with the Tigers and another one target behind in fourth place. Three birds separated the top four teams.
“It was probably the tightest competition we’ve been in,” Mello said.
Individually, Baumgartner’s 199 wasn’t good enough to get him placed – Mello said eight shooters carded a perfect 200.
“There were some awesome shooters,” Mello said. “Basically, if you missed one bird, you’re out of placing contention. There was no room for error.”
In addition to the five shooters, Scott Crist, Jared’s younger brother, competed individually in the sub-junior category, hitting 195 of 200 targets.