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Olympic boys came home conquering heroes

The American Trap Shooting Team of the 1920 Olympic Games was, at the time, the greatest single group of shotgun wizards ever assembled by any one country. The six-man team that won the gold medal was composed of Mark Arie, Horace Bonser, Jay Clark, Forest McNeir, Frank Troeh and Frank Wright. In 21 shooting events, the most ever held, 13 gold medals were won in shooting, seven by the shotgun wizards.

The last time an American shooting team had competed in an Olympics was 1912. An American team did not compete in the 1908 Games. The 1916 Olympic Games, scheduled for Berlin, were not held as Europe was in the midst of the first world war.

However, when 1920 came around, America was rarin' to go, and picked a team that included the world's greatest shots at the time — any time, for that matter.

The 1920 Olympics, held in Antwerp, Belgium, provided a stage for America's great trapshooting stars. They won all the medals, with Mark Arie (95x100) winning the gold, Frank Troeh the silver and Frank Wright the bronze in individual shooting.

By breaking straight the last 10 targets, thrown from a multiple of nine traps, “unknown” as to release and angles, Arie did that which European shooters considered almost impossible. No Olympic contestant had ever before accomplished the feat.

The six shooters won the team title with 547x600, 44 targets better than second place Belgium. It was the highest ever made in Olympic competition.

Prior to going to Antwerp, the team competed at London, where it won team and individual honors with scores that marked new records in the trap shooting annals of England. It was there that Troeh won the English championship and set the long run record 79 targets higher than the best previous English record by breaking 138 straight.

Leading up to the 1920 Olympics, “the biggest shoot in the country” was held at Clarksdale, Miss. Sid Dodds of the American Trap Shooting Association wanted all the best shots in the country there so he could pick some team members for the Olympic Games. The shooters not only had a chance to go to the Games, but also could shoot for $9,000 in prize money.

On the way to Clarksdale, the shooters stopped off for a two-day shoot at Vicksburg. There, McNeir was beat by Frank Hughes, from Mobridge. S.D. McNeir's score was 148x150, while Hughes' score was one better. Also shooting at this event was Charley Young of Greenville, Miss.

There was a difference of opinions as to who was the best shot in the United States at that time. Some backed Arie, some favored Troeh. The shooting average for McNeir was 96 percent on 2,650 targets for the year, Frank Wright had 96.7 percent, Troeh, 97.10 percent, and Arie had an average of 97.60 percent.

At the big Clarksdale trap championship, contested among 26 shooters, Arie, of Champaign, Ill., broke 495x500 16-yard targets; Wright, of Buffalo, N.Y., broke 493; Troeh, of Vancouver, Wash., missed his first two and finished with 490; McNeir, of Houston, Texas, the only shooter from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, missed 13.

Dodds chose these four shooters to compete in the Olympics. Each shooter paid his own way: $1,600.

After winning at the Olympics, their trophies were presented to them by the Count Ballet de Latour at his beautiful castle home near Hoogboom, about 12 miles out of Antwerp.

Returning home, the ship's captain arranged a “Deep Sea Championship of the Atlantic” between the team members, which Arie won. That night in the salon of the Lapland they auctioned off the last empty shell Mark Arie had shot to win the individual Olympic championship. An England man bought it for 40 pounds.

The “Olympic boys” came home as conquering heroes.

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