CANBY, Ore. (KOIN) — A Canby High School senior is named one of the top female trap shooters in the country, an accomplishment three years in the making after Canby went against the norm and formed a trap team.
However, Issabella Berge’s big moment was almost derailed at the national championship this year, after an official threatened to disqualify her based on what she was wearing.
To even get Issabella to the national stage in the first place, Coach Chuck McClaugherty had the arduous task of convincing school officials to let him start the team.
“(They said) it’s never gonna happen, because it involved shotguns,” McClaugherty told KOIN 6 News. “We had to prove to them how safe the sport was … comparing trap shooting to like a football game. When we’re out trap shooting we don’t have ambulances parked here at our games and we’re not hauling people away with broken legs and concussions. Just showing the history of the sport that there’s been over 50 million shots fired at targets with zero accidents.”
It’s also touted as the fastest-growing school sport by the USA High School Clay Target League.
Issabella joined the team its first year. While she was familiar with most guns, she hadn’t done any trapshooting until her dad took her out to the Canby Rod & Gun Club.
“She picked it up fast, and the thing about Issabella is she does put in the work,” Trig Berge said. He takes her to practice at the club twice a week, every week. “It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, raining, whatever, she comes out and she shoots and gets in her practice.”
Issabella describes shooting as “calming.”
“You get out here and you drop all problems. So from school, from your home life, from working, anything, you just get out on the line and you shoot and it was like therapy almost.”
All that practice paid off at this year’s USA Clay Target High School National Championship, held in Michigan. On the first day of individual competition, Issabella ran a perfect 100, which means she hit 100 targets in a row.
“She was focused,” McClaugherty said. “It brings back emotions now.”
The proud coach was sitting by Issabella’s parents while it happened. “Everybody in the crowd was teared up and like, ‘Come on. She can do it. That’s 90, 91, 92,’ and they counted all the way up and everybody just bursted into cheering and yelling when she broke that 100th target.”
About 1,700 students competed at nationals. Issabella was one of only seven to hit a perfect 100, and she was the only girl.
“It was neat to see thousands of people just all like talking about, ‘Hey there’s a girl down there that just shot a hundred straight and she beat all the guys … It’s something I’ll cherish forever as a coach.”Chuck McClaugherty, Canby High School trap shooting team head coach
But that inspirational moment almost didn’t happen. The day before the competition started, Issabella was out practicing with the other teens when, according to her parents, and organizer took issue with her clothes and threatened to disqualify her.
Issabella described the outfit as a sleeveless T-shirt and cutoff shorts.
“There were other kids wearing way worse things than me,” she said.
“I’m not sure what the problem was, especially since the next day boys were wearing tank tops,” Trig said. “I think he just wanted to be able to say something … so her mom and I talked to her and told her just go out and win this thing so then you’ll have a platform to stand on, and she took it to heart.”
Issabella went out and got some new clothes before she could compete.
“I bought scrubs,” she said. “I wore T-shirts and scrubs the whole time.”
And in T-shirts and scrubs, she made her mark.
Issabella hopes more girls will get involved in trapshooting, but she knows it can be daunting.
“They feel like their male peers are kinda looking down on them,” she said. “That’s a difficult one … to go out and shoot and then feel like people are looking down on you, especially being a female in a male-dominated sport.”
When people would make mean comments to Issabella, she said it made her determined to “go out and do better … show ‘em who’s boss.”
No amount of criticism could make her consider quitting trap shooting.
“If you’re a girl and you’re even debating on going into it, it’s good. It’s a nice sport and you will eventually not be criticized,” Issabella said, adding, “Unless it’s for your clothing.”