GARDEN CITY — Kansas high school teams are preparing for their shot at state clay target tournaments.

The Kansas State High School Clay Target League is hosting its annual state trap shooting tournament June 15 in Sedgwick. The skeet shooting and 5-stand state tournaments take place June 13-16 in Augusta.

In southwest Kansas, Garden City High School freshman Andi Heckel is getting ready to shoot in the trap tournament. She’s one of four girls on the 20-person GCHS team.

Heckel, 15, started shooting shotguns at age 13. She placed second individually in the Kansas 1A Trap Shooting Conference last month, and the team placed first.

“It definitely has been fun having the social aspect and making friends along the way,” Heckel said.

Her mother, Jessica Heckel, is one of the assistant coaches for the GCHS trap team.

The USA Clay Target League started nationally in 2001 and oversees clay shooting clubs across the country, including the program in Kansas. Since its creation, there have been no reported injuries at any clay target competitions nationwide. As part of the safety rules, shotguns and ammunition are not transported from one city to another, and competitors must get their state hunter’s safety certificate or complete a USA Clay Target League safety course.

Heckel received her hunter’s safety certification in seventh grade through a semester-long class that split both physical education and hunter’s education.

Not all Kansas school districts directly host a shooting team. In Cedar Vale, 80 miles southeast of Wichita, Jeff Gage is the coach for the local trap shooting club. He said his club is a nonprofit organization that obtained permission from officials with USD 285 Cedar Vale and USD 471 Dexter Schools to use the school names for the club. Gage said it made sense to ask both districts, since Cedar Vale and Dexter athletics were combined in 2009. The nonprofit was founded in 2016, and Gage said it’s grown steadily since then.

“I’ve discovered that trap shooting is pretty strong in Kansas,” Gage said. “I’m just blown away at how these kids are gravitating to the sport. We have a lot of kids who’ve barely shot anything, let alone a shotgun.”

Gage said the cost of shooting sports is comparable at times to other school sports in terms of equipment required. A well-made shotgun can be purchased for about $300, but a quality firearm that can be adjusted to the shooter and handle firing at least 150 rounds per week is closer to the $1,000 range, Gage said. Once that initial firearm purchase is made, the cost of supplying shotgun shells and ear protection is much lower.

“I emphasize to parents that they don’t have to spend a lot of money to get started,” Gage said.

To help keep costs lower for families, clay targets are provided through money raised from the Cedar Vale Labor Day raffle event. Club members and youth competitors provide their own shotguns and ammo. Gage said his club uses five pallets of targets each year, which equates to more than 42,000 targets in total.

After a competition, individual and team scores are compiled from each tournament and posted weekly on the Kansas league website. In total, 147 high schools are listed on the Kansas State league site as having clay shooting teams. Nationwide, more than 50,000 high school students are registered with a clay shooting program.

USA Clay Target League president John Nelson said in an email that the Kansas shooting program had the highest numbers ever for a program’s first year, with 328 students on 19 high school teams in 2016. Eight years later, there are now more than 2,700 student shooters in Kansas, Nelson said.

“Schools love the program, parents love the program, and most importantly, the students love shooting clay targets,” Nelson wrote.

Most of the shooting club coaches across Kansas, including Gage and Jessica Heckel, are volunteers and are not compensated for their time.

Jessica Heckel is an assistant coach, the president of the GCHS shooting team booster club, and the president of the Garden City Trap and Skeet Club. In her day job, she is the office manager for The Garden City Company.

“My oldest daughter started as a freshman,” Jessica Heckel said. “We didn’t know it was a thing until we saw a flyer for it. It’s a very diverse and inclusive group.”

Gage’s four children, two daughters and two sons all participated in the Cedar Vale/Dexter trap shooting club. He said he loves the sport because “there are no benchwarmers.”

“Everyone gets an opportunity to participate,” Gage said. “Our reward (as volunteer coaches) is getting to watch these kids become accomplished shooters.”