At first, it was for fun.
For six years, it was a chance to try a new sport in the summer and learn something new.
When 2015 hit, it became more than just a day or night out at the shooting range.
Competition began. And the North Scott trapshooting program took off.
The Lancers have won the state title three consecutive summers and are headed to the national championships for a second straight year. They travel to Marengo, Ohio, today for competition against the best high school shooters in the country at the Cardinal Shooting Center.
“Success drives people to want to get involved,” head coach Eric Long said. “We didn’t expect that. It’s evolved quickly.”
The program's evolution goes back to 2009.
Before that, Eldridge area shooters combined with the trapshooting team out of Davenport. Former head coach Dave Frederickson changed that.
A presentation in front of the North Scott school board was enough for majority approval to bring the sport to Eldridge.
“We had the endorsement of the superintendent at the time,” Frederickson said. “We wanted to get our program. It would take off once we got it going.”
That first year, 10 kids were a part of the high school team. The number of participants was in the 20s until a big decision was made in 2013.
That’s when the coaches decided to allow junior high kids to compete and adopted a different style of coaching. In that year, North Scott had more than 70 shooters on its team.
“We felt confident in our coaching staff to teach them,” said Frederickson, who was the first head coach in the program’s history. “We had some really good junior high kids.”
Coaches that wanted to be a part of this program had to receive certification to teach middle and high school kids how to properly hold, shoot and load a rifle or any type of gun.
“Our goal is to introduce a sport that is very safe, very well-approached and very well-designed to be safe,” Frederickson said in a past interview with the Quad-City Times.
Three different divisions make up one team score; singles, doubles and handicap.
North Scott has excelled in the doubles and handicap, winning that portion of the state competition in Cedar Falls the past three years. It also placed in the top three in singles.
By winning two out of the three divisions, the Lancers have the inside track on a state title. That first year, took a little more shooting.
Maquoketa was the defending state champions and the Lancers were trailing by 18 birds. The Cardinals had some miscues and North Scott capitalized en route to its first state title.
Last year,was something no one in the program expected.
Not only did the Lancers win state again, but they qualified for the national championship.
“We had no expectations,” Long said.
Their dominance in the doubles and handicap divisions at the state level transferred to the national level as they won both. They tied in singles with a team from Pennsylvania and went into a shootout.
Falling in the shootout, North Scott was placed as the runner-up in the varsity competition, but its intermediate team won singles, doubles and handicap to be crowned national champions.
“When I started out, I didn’t think I would be in the top-5, top-10 in the state of Iowa,” senior Brandon Benhorst said. “I’m right up there with the top competition. So are a lot of other people on our team.”
Those intermediate winners now return to Marengo as the junior varsity team for North Scott, which will take 11 varsity shooters and five junior high shooters to nationalsl this year, compared to just 10 total in 2016.
For the varsity team, the chance at a national championship is there again.
“Every week before we go to competitions, we’ll practice like we’re at nationals," senior Alexis Louck said. “It helps us drive to what we want.”
Long has a lot of confidence in his shooters.
“We’re one of the deepest teams in the nation,” he said. “We have 20 young individuals who shoot at that national level. Our biggest competition is standing to our right or left, being teammates.”
For a program that started with little interest to where it is now, even Long can’t believe it. The winning culture is there, with three state titles, a national runner-up and a Baxter Cup, given to the team with the best league score.
“It gave a group of individuals an avenue to compete” Long said. “Not everyone wants to be at that competitive level. We want kids to have fun, but also they’re some that want to compete at the state, regional and national level.”