‘Good things happen’: Southern Utah trap shooting team qualifies 2 for national championships

HURRICANE — While their fellow student athletes competed on the soccer pitch, the gridiron, the hardwood and the baseball diamond, five local teenagers displayed their talents on the firing line.

And two of them qualified for the national championships.

The Purgatory Orange Crush Shotgun Team, a group of trap shooters based at Purgatory Clay Target Sports in Hurricane, had one of their best seasons ever after qualifying two shooters, Rueger Leavitt and Bowen McClellan, for the national championships in Texas in mid-June.

“We’ve only been in business for about three years,” coach Brent McFadden told St. George News at a practice shoot Friday morning in Hurricane.

“It’s a great group of boys and I love hanging out with them. They’re all good kids,” he added. “This year I was super proud of the improvements that many of our shooters made. Most of all, it’s just fun to watch them interact and work with each other.”

Rueger Leavitt aims at a clay pigeon during a practice shoot at Purgatory Clay Target Sports, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

McFadden said that the team doesn’t allow any negative talk when they interact with each other or with other teams.

“We try to always be positive. These guys are all the time helping each other out. They’re always encouraging to one another,” McFadden said. “That’s one of those things that I really enjoy, is watching that develop.”

Leavitt, a 16-year old at Crimson Cliffs High School, won Rookie of the Year this past season, the competitive shooting year runs from November to May.

“I just like shooting the gun,” Leavitt said, explaining how he got into shooting rather than one of the more popular sports in high school. “When we got out here I met these guys and got to get a lot of good advice from Brent.”

His teammates said that Leavitt is laser-focused when he steps onto the firing line.

“Everybody shoots different,” Leavitt said. “Some people got to focus on where their bullets are gonna go. I think more just have fun with it. Just shoot. If you hit it, you hit it. I’m not very strategic.”

He said he will not really change his mental approach when he shoots against some of the best competitors in the sport at nationals.

L-R: Isaiah Iverson, Cash McFadden, Brent McFadden, Rueger Leavitt, Bowen McClellan, Braden McClellan, Brady McClellan at Purgatory Clay Target Sports before a practice shoot, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

“I just can’t wait to meet new people and shoot the gun,” Leavitt said. “I usually walk in thinking that it’s going to be tough. Everybody shoots super well, especially for nationals.”

His coach said that Leavitt has one attribute that helps him more than any other on the firing line.

“I think he’s probably one of the most coachable kids I’ve ever been around,” McFadden said. “He responds well to making adjustments to his shooting and he’s got great hand-eye coordination. That’s another thing that helps is he has a lot of natural ability as well.”

Coach McFadden’s son Cash, a student athlete at Snow Canyon High School, is one of the top shooters on the team as well as its main recruiter.

Isaiah Iverson from Hurricane High School excels on the firing line for the Orange Crush.

Homeschooled student athletes Braden McClellan and Bowen McClellan shoot for the team under the direction of their dad and coach, Brady McClellan.

L-R: Braden McClellan, Rueger Leavitt, Cash McFadden, Bowen McClellan, Isaiah Iverson on the firing line at Purgatory Clay Target Sports, Hurricane, Utah, May 24, 2024 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

Bowen McClellan qualified to go to nationals along with Leavitt but had a previously planned family commitment so he will not be able to attend the event next month.

Coach McFadden said there are larger issues involved with the sport other than just the results from the firing line.

“I think that if you teach a kid the right way to handle a gun and what a gun will actually do, and you give them something constructive to do with that gun, you find that they meet that expectation and good things happen,” McFadden said.

The sport is co-ed and McFadden encourages participation from student athletes in the fifth grade all the way through college.

“Everyone is welcome,” he said. McFadden said that anyone seeking information about the shooting season or with questions about participating with Orange Crush can call 435-313-5173.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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