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Clay shooting: WHS team partnering to fight hearing loss

WORTHINGTON -- All it takes is one gunshot to deteriorate an individual's hearing, and in 2017, the Worthington High School clay target team is taking extra precautions. Through a partnership with Southwest Hearing Technologies, the defending Cla...

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Returning letter winners for the Worthington clay target team are (front row, from left) Brandon Kempema, Tucker Sievers, Jacob Neuberger, (back) Jaimie Ross, Beau Loosbrock, Vince Riley, Ben Ahlschlager and D.J. Lambert. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- All it takes is one gunshot to deteriorate an individual’s hearing, and in 2017, the Worthington High School clay target team is taking extra precautions. Through a partnership with Southwest Hearing Technologies, the defending Class 2A champion Trojans have outfitted their members with individually customized 3-D molded ear plugs.

“Over time, the gunshots and the loud noise exposure is going to take the hearing down,” Nick Raymo of Southwest Hearing Technologies said. “One shot is all it takes because of the sudden impact. It could be your gun or a guy down the road’s gun that shoots off. And there’s nothing we can do to bring back your hearing once it’s gone.”

WHS trap shooting coach Aaron Sieve wanted to make sure his shooters understood the importance of hearing protection, so he wanted to make it an emphasis this season and asked Raymo to come talk to his team.

So the hearing specialist spoke to the shooters, and then worked out a deal with Sieve and fellow coach Scott Oberloh to make the $125 individually molded ear plugs affordable for them. In the end, each shooter only needed to contribute $30 for the earplugs, while the team covered $25 with entry fee money, and Southwest Hearing Solutions covered the remaining $70.

“It’s a great thing that we joined with the team,” Raymo said. “These are the kids that are going to be your pheasant hunters, your deer hunters their whole life. Trap shooting teaches them the basics and the safeties. I wish it was a sport I had back in the day.”

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Using a custom earplug provides better hearing protection than a standard earplug, by creating a perfect fit for the individual ear canal. They use a silicon mold to size the ear and then send that to the manufacturer.

“His canal could be smaller and get a better seal, and mine could be bigger and it seals it up, but it won’t be as good,” Sieve said. “It is better when it is your own, molded to you. We provide them with the basic one, but it’s better to have these. With the earbuds and the headphones, their hearing takes enough abuse without us contributing too.”

After a successful conference and Class 2A championship season in 2016, Worthington lost 12 members, nearly half of its 25-shooter roster. But it rebounded by adding 18 new members this year to push the team count over 30.

“We knew we were going to be short this year and we put the word out for last year’s shooters to see if they had friends that want to try it,” Sieve said. “It is the fastest growing sport in Minnesota. This year there are 11,000 kids registered to shoot trap.”

There is an inherent learning curve involved with so many new members, but the coach is confident his team will come around. Most of the shooters, he says, are experienced with hunting and have taken gun safety courses, so they are comfortable handling guns.

“It’s just a matter of getting them to see things the right way to break some birds,” he said. “Last year’s team was a pretty solid team. Any given night, we’d have six or eight shooters that would shoot 45 out of 50. We’ve got a couple that are pretty consistent at it. They’ll get there.”

After one week of competitive shooting, the Trojans are in third place in their conference, but the seven-time defending conference champs have their sights set on another championship and a good showing at the Class 2A championships in Alexandria.

“Our goals are first of all to win the conference,” Sieve said. “Our real goal is to at least put in a good showing at Alex. That’s where we know we are competing with teams our size. We’ve done well at Alex every time we’ve been down there.”

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Jaimie Ross fires on a clay pigeon during practice. (Tim Middagh / Daily Globe)

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