Issabella Berge, a Canby High School senior, has been named one of the top female trap shooters in the country. Canby did something different three years ago when they formed a trap team.
However, Issabella’s accomplishment almost didn’t become reality after an official threatened to disqualify her because of what she was wearing.
In order to get Issabella to the national stage to begin with, Coach Chuck McClaugherty had the difficult 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.”
Trap shooting is also lauded as the fastest-growing school sport by the USA High School Clay Target League.
Issabella became a part of the team during its first year. She was accustomed to most guns, but she hadn’t participated in any trapshooting till her dad took her 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 brings her to practice at the club twice a week, each 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.”
Issabella’s persistent practicing paid off at this year’s USA Clay Target High School National Championship, which took place in Michigan. On day one of the individual competition, she ran a perfect 100—hitting 100 targets consecutively.
“She was focused,” McClaugherty said. “It brings back emotions now.”
McClaugherty 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.”
Nearly 1,700 students participated at nationals. Issabella was one of 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,” McClaugherty said.
That big moment might never have taken place, however. The day before the competition, Issabella was practicing with the other teens when, according to her parents, an organizer took issue with her clothes and threatened to disqualify her.
She had been wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and cutoff shorts.
“I’m not sure what the problem was, especially since the next day boys were wearing tank tops,” her father 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 acquired some new clothes before she competed.
“I bought scrubs,” she said. “I wore T-shirts and scrubs the whole time.”
Issabella would like to see more girls get involved in trapshooting, but she knows it has its cons.
“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 put Issabella down, she said it made her resolute to “go out and do better … show ‘em who’s boss.”
“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.”
Read the KOIN 6 story here.