GRAND FORKS -- When sisters Evie and Kate Janousek qualified for the Handicap Championship on Sunday, Feb. 21, the final day of the Spring Grand American trapshooting tournament in Tucson, Ariz., their dad, Dillon, said the family would reschedule its flight home to Grand Forks and stay an extra day if one of the girls shot a perfect score and hit all 100 clay targets.
She’d never done it before, but Evie, 17, shot a perfect 100 to win the Handicap Championship, considered to be the most prestigious event in trapshooting. In the process, she outscored 553 other shooters of all ages and classes.
Not to be outdone, younger sister Kate, 14, shot 96 out of 100, including her first 50 straight, to win the Sub-junior Handicap Championship in the Spring Grand Am. Only six other shooters shot better than Kate in the Handicap Championship event.
Long story short, the family’s flight back to Grand Forks had to wait a day.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting” to shoot 100, Evie Janousek said. “I was expecting to shoot my average, like 92 or 93 maybe, in Handicap, and then we were going to go home on our flight so I wasn’t really thinking about winning it, I guess.”
Then came the challenge.
“My dad said if one of you girls shoot 100 straight, we’ll miss our flight, so that’s exactly what I did,” Evie said. “I shot my first 100 and ended up winning the Handicap Championship.”
The two sisters – Evie is a home-schooled 11th grader, and Kate is a freshman at Thompson High School – are making quite a name for themselves in trapshooting circles both at the state and national level.
Just in the past year, Evie and Kate have racked up enough hardware to fill a long table and recently were named to the North Dakota Trapshooting Association’s All-State trapshooting team, Evie in the women’s class, and Kate in the sub-junior class.
Both girls shoot in the Grand Forks Gun Club’s youth league, where they got their start, along with the Thompson High School trapshooting team. They also compete in eight to 12 events a year that are registered through the Amateur Trapshooting Association, Dillon Janousek said.
That’s a lot of time on the road and thousands upon thousands of shotgun shells. Neither parent shoots competitively, but the sport has become a family affair, says Devona Janousek, the girls’ mom.
“It’s turned out to be a good family activity,” she said. “We don’t shoot, Dillon and I, but we take our camper and go to these shoots, and it’s just a fun time to travel around to these different places and meet different people. We’ve made friends with other trapshooters from other places, and we get to see them when we go to the shoots.
“You just meet new people all the time; it’s a lot of fun.”
Given the difficulty of Handicap events, Dillon Janousek admits he wasn’t expecting either girl to shoot a perfect 100 at the recent Spring Grand Am. In Handicap competitions, shooters stand anywhere from 18 yards to 27 yards behind the trap house, with the most skilled shooters standing farthest away from the line, based on previous scores.
Evie competed 21 yards behind the line, and Kate shot 19½ yards behind the line.
“I thought it was a pretty safe bet,” he said. “It’s not very common to shoot 100 straight in Handicap.”
In keeping with tradition, Evie and a handful of other shooters tossed the hat she was wearing into the air after her perfect score and shot it as a boisterous way to celebrate the accomplishment. Typically, the hat is weighted so it flies through the air better, but since Evie was wearing a visor, they taped a water bottle to the rim and let it fly.
“We probably shot the visor 20 times,” she said.
Love at first shot
Trapshooting, it could be said, was love at first shot for both sisters. Evie has been trapshooting five years, and Kate since 2019.
“I was a hunter so I figured, ‘Why not try shooting?’ And I fell in love,” Evie said, attributing her success to staying calm under pressure.
Younger sister Kate takes a similar approach.
“For me, it’s probably a lot of focus and patience and persistence and practice,” Kate said.
And yes, the sisters admit, there is some sibling rivalry in their trapshooting pursuits.
“Some is an understatement,” Kate said. “We’re always competing.”
That competitiveness isn’t lost on Mike Collings, who coaches the Thompson trapshooting team. Thompson didn’t have a team when Evie started in trapshooting, Collings recalls, and she was competing on the Grand Forks Central squad as part of a co-op agreement.
At that time, Kate was still on the sidelines watching, he said.
“The first thing that impressed me about Evie and Kate was that they wanted to start their own team, even though I explained to them that they may have fewer opportunities to be competitive in the team events,” Collings said. “That gave me some insight into their goals and character immediately.”
It was obvious, he said, that both sisters were “fierce individual competitors” with school spirit.
“These young ladies have the three key ingredients that make up their success: They have a passion for the sport, an incredible work ethic and incomparable support from their parents,” Collings said. “We love this strange sport where we shoot a 25-cent shell at a 30-cent target and try to break it before it hits the ground – it is not cheap.
“Multiply that by several thousand targets per year and you get the idea.”
‘Nervous and excited’
As a trapshooting coach, Collings says Evie and Kate put in the training and the time that’s required to compete at the high level they’ve attained.
“My greatest challenge as a coach is not their skills, it’s trying to keep them from competing against each other rather than the targets, but I know I am in a losing battle when it comes to this rivalry,” he said with a laugh. “They are great kids, but sisters will be sisters.”
As a parent, watching the girls compete can be agonizing, Dillon Janousek admits. That was definitely the case during the recent Spring Grand Am, where the girls brought home eight trophies.
“You’re both nervous and excited at the same time,” Dillon said. “You want them to do well, but it’s pretty stressful.”
On the horizon, Evie and Kate plan to compete in June at the Kansas state shoot and in August at the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships in Sparta, Ill., along with various North Dakota shoots throughout the summer.
“This year, we’re planning on going to a lot more state shoots,” Kate said. “We have five on our list, and then the Grand Am, and we’ve already shot the spring Grand. As the years go on, we just keep doing more and more shoots.”
And winning more and more trophies.
Here’s a look at some of the trapshooting awards sisters Evie and Kate Janousek of Grand Forks have received in the past year. The first number indicates the number of targets hit, the second number represents the number of targets total.
Spring Grand Am Handicap champion, 100/100 (21 yards).
Spring Grand Am Class C Singles champion, 195/200.
Spring Grand Am Class D Doubles runner-up, 90/100.
Spring Grand Am High Overall Class C champion, 1,014/1,100.
Spring Grand Am High All Around Class C champion, 385/400.
North Dakota Class D Doubles champion summer 2020.
North Dakota state AIM Singles Junior female champion. (AIM is the youth arm of the Amateur Trapshooting Association.)
Spring Grand Am Sub-junior Handicap champion, 96/100 (first 50 ATA straight, 19½ yards).
Spring Grand Am Class D Doubles runner-up, 89/100.
Spring High All Around Class D champion, 364/400.
North Dakota state Sub-junior Singles champion 2020.
South Dakota state Sub-junior Female Singles champion 2020.
– Herald staff report