The Mitchell High School trapshooting team saw another spike in participation numbers this season.

The MHS roster has steadily increased each of the past four seasons. It had 14 shooters in 2017, 35 in 2018 and 33 last season. The Kernels have 49 shooters this season.

They’ve also improved steadily in the state each season. MHS took 10th its first year, sixth the next season and third last season.

But the Kernels are in a wait-and-see approach with their season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kernels are set to start shooting on May 4. Coach Jerry Opbroek and the coaching staff will meet today to discuss plans for conducting shoots and to follow social distancing guidelines. They will also be in compliance with any regulations passed by city council.

Opbroek said the initial plan is for coaches to supervise shoots at the gun club and limit it to a certain number of kids at a time.

“I am retired and two of our other coaches are retired and they’ve all said we will go whenever the kids can go,” Opbroek said. “If five kids can come at 1 o’clock in the afternoon, we will make sure somebody is there to open up and supervise them and let them shoot.”

Originally, 55 trapshooters signed up for the MHS team and paid the $35 registration fee. But the South Dakota State High School Clay Target League gave shooters the option to receive their money back if they wanted to leave the team. Opbroek only six shooters opted out of the program.

Opbroek said the coaches “were floored when that many kids signed up,” and Mitchell was allowed to add shooters from different towns. Shooters from local communities Mount Vernon, Ethan, Plankinton, Alexandria and Canistota are also on the roster.

“It was a great turnout,” Opbroek said. “It was just an amazing turnout. I think that maybe pretty close to the highest number in the state.”

The state tournament has been canceled. But the state will divide the teams into conferences and determined by team size rather than geographic location for fair competition. Opbroek said the Kernels will be in the top conference given their high number of shooters. The conferences will be announced June 17.

The Mitchell Gun Club has not started its regular trapshooting leagues either. Opbroek anticipates the leagues will start within the next couple of weeks. The staff is also preparing for social distancing guidelines for their leagues.