Merrill trap team goes from non-existent to conference powerhouse
By Jared Schmeltzer
The Merrill trap shooting team just finished their fifth season of existence, where they won their second straight conference title. The Merrill High School trap team was formed in 2015 by current coach Dave Lepak and former MHS FFA teacher Brigid Reimann.
“I started a youth shooting team at the Lincoln Gun Club about eight years ago,” said Merrill trap shooting head coach Dave Lepak, “The next year Brigid Reimann, who was an FFA teacher at the high school, took some of her students to a trap shoot for the FFA program. That somehow got us together and we worked on getting the trap team cleared with the Merrill school board to be a lettering sport for 2015. After that was approved, Brigid and I were co-head coaches the first year, until the next year when she took a different job in the state teaching. I have been the head coach since.”
Despite having a lettering team for trap shooting, there wasn’t any official conference to compete in. However, in 2018, the trap teams of North-Central Wisconsin decided to form the Great Northern Conference.
Teams that participate in the GNC trap shooting include: Merrill, Mosinee, Antigo, Rhinelander, Tomahawk, Wausau, SPASH, Lakeland, Northland Pines and Medford.
According to Merrill head coach Dave Lepak, in Merrill’s first couple of years they only averaged about 15-20 athletes. Since opening the team up to middle school kids last year, the team has grown to 59 athletes. Coach Lepak believes allowing young shooters to practice and compete with the older kids will give them a chance to have more success.
“Allowing young athletes to shoot next to an older athlete and pickup on their skills, while still developing their own skills is a great learning tool,” Lepak said. “Which will also help the younger athlete to develop an ‘I can do better mind set’.”
Since the forming of the Great Northern Conference, the Merrill trap team has seen more success.
“This is the second season since we’ve formed the GNC to mimic WIAA GNC,” added Lepak, “In previous we have always finished around mid range to the upper range of our competition, however since the forming of the GNC last year, we finished in first place each year.”
Lepak is thankful for the support the trap team received this year saying, “A special shout out to everyone in the community for their support and donations, the exceptional volunteer coaches and adult helpers, the Lincoln Gun Club for the use of their facility and our awesome athletes being able to adapt to every type of weather mother nature threw at them this year.”