Don’t tell Woodrow Glazer perfection isn’t possible.
Glazer, 17, is a member of the New Prague High School trap team and reigning state and national champion for the USA High School Clay Target League, the nation’s largest youth shooting-sports organization.
For any wing-shooter who has attempted to turn those small, fast-flying discs called clay pigeons into plumes of dust, Glazer’s feat seems unfathomable: In both individual events in June and July the upcoming senior with a 3.7 GPA didn’t miss a single target with his customized 12-gauge shotgun — a Browning 725.
Not. A. Single. Target.
“It’s pretty hard to get your head around — everyone was awestruck by what they were watching,” said Joe Glazer, Woodrow’s father.
“He’s really, really good,” said one of his teenage competitors.
“It was pretty darn amazing to watch,” said organization founder Jim Sable. “It’s something you don’t expect to see.”
For his part, Glazer somewhat shrugged off his success, saying only that he “put in a lot of practice time” and that he was happy he has a league in which to shoot — a league, and a sport whose growth and popularity in Minnesota and across the nation continues to ascend while defying skeptics who say “guns and schools” can’t coexist safely.
“I was prepared,” said Glazer, who started shooting clay pigeons thrown by his father in grade school, of winning both titles. “I was focused and locked in.”
Worried about the decline in members at local gun clubs in 2001, Sable, 79, of Plymouth, a longtime firearms safety instructor, Plymouth Gun Club member and hunter, decided to act. His goal: invigorate Minnesota’s shooting sports and its graying demographics (the average age of gun-club members was nearly 57, according to one study, Sable said) by attracting, and mentoring, youth shooters. “I was asked at the time where I was going to find them … and I said the schools,” Sable said. “That’s where the kids are.”
In 2008, Sable had three teams and 30 participants. Today, Minnesota has 343 school-approved teams and nearly 12,000 participates (boys and girls) from grades 6-12.
In 2014, because of increasing demand, Sable formed the USA High School Clay Target League, a nonprofit national umbrella group for state membership. The organization today boasts 26,000 student-athletes and 800 school-approved teams in 26 states. Roughly 70 percent of new participants, Sable said, never shot trap or skeet before formally joining a team. All must have a firearms safety certificate to participate.
“I’ve been asked if our growth has hit a plateau, but what you have to remember is that we lose about 20 percent of participants each year because of graduation,” Sable said.
This year’s first-ever national tournament in Mason, Mich., Sable said, was “somewhat” bittersweet. Sweet, because roughly 2,275 kids from 20 states participated, attracting roughly 7,000 fans for the multi-day event. Bitter, only because Minnesota doesn’t have a shooting facility large enough to hold such an event in a reasonable window of time. Working with state officials and others, Sable said a handful of studies beginning in 2005 have been conducted to determine the best site for such a facility. The latest, in 2018, identities 10 possible sites in and around the metro area.
“It’s been frustrating,” said Sable of not having a new facility in Minnesota. “We’re turning away a lot of kids in some areas because existing gun clubs are maxed out. But I believe we’re going to get a new facility at some point in the future. I’m an optimist.”
Along with four other competitors, Glazer won the state championship in Alexandria by hitting 100 trap targets in a row. At the nationals in Michigan, and after hitting 200 targets in a row, Glazer eventually found himself in a shoot-out against Mason Milbrand, a 16-year-old junior from Norwood-Young America High School.
“It was just nerve-racking to watch,” Joe Glazer said.
On the 30th throw from 24 yards, Milbrand missed, and Glazer did not. All totaled, Glazer shot a perfect 330 targets in two individual events.
Said Milbrand: “I knew I missed the second I pulled the trigger. But I surpassed all my expectations — and I lost to Woodrow, who is so good. I can’t feel too bad about that.”
Glazer, who says he’d like to shoot competitively in college, said his success is largely the result of good old-fashioned hard work. Along with other team members from New Prague, he practices regularly on a trap-shooting simulator at his coach’s house. He also competes in other tournaments, including those that feature skeet and sporting clays, across the country.
“Shooting fundaments will keep your average up, but to break big scores and win tournaments, you have to be in the zone mentally,” Glazer said. “You can’t win if you can’t find that focus. I’ve been able to do that.”
Tori J. McCormick is a freelance writer living in the Twin Cities. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org