Trap and Skeet Team Wins National Title

Posted: May 9, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: May 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

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By Frances Womble

In 1995, George Mason University’s club team for trap and skeet, a type of competitive shooting with shotguns and clay targets, gained the attention of Sports Illustrated as it won its 10th consecutive national shooting title in the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) National Championships.  Now, 18 years later, the current team of eight students continues to honor the trap and skeet team’s history of success.

The trap and skeet team stands with other competitors at the Eastern Regional Championships. Mason's eight team members are at center. Photo courtesy of trap and skeet team

The trap and skeet team stands with other competitors at the Eastern Regional Championships. Mason’s eight team members are at center. Photo courtesy of trap and skeet team

At the end of March, the team walked away with Division III first-place trophies in American Trap, American Skeet and International Trap, three of the events at the ACUI National Championships in San Antonio.  Thanks to top scores, the team is the Division III national champion, marking the 11th time that Mason has won the tournament, and the first time the team has held the title since 1995.

“We have a very strong reputation, and it’s nice for us to reclaim it,” says Gary Olin, who has coached the team for the past 12 years.

“I think one of the reasons we did so well in Texas was the balance of our team,” says Mark Hanna, a senior majoring in marketing who joined the team last spring.  “We have some new shooters, but they are just as skilled.  It’s a lot of pressure, and if one of our top shooters didn’t perform as well as they normally do, someone else picked up their slack.”

Earlier this year, the team hosted the Eastern Regional Championships and competed against 110 shooters from 11 universities, including the Naval Academy and Virginia Military Institute.  The team took first place for team score, the top three men’s scores and the top women’s score.

“It is by far the largest collegiate tournament held on the East Coast and is probably second in size to the ACUI National Championships,” says Olin.

In April, the team competed in the Battle of the Bay in Glenn Dale, Md., and walked away with the high team score, the women’s high score and the top four men’s scores.  The team also traveled to the Delaware Blue Hen Classic and took the high team score and the top two individual scores.

Surprisingly, not all shooters on the team were familiar with the sport before they arrived at Mason.

“I’ve been hunting my whole life, and my dad was in the Army, but I hadn’t done any clay target shooting,” says Hanna.  “I was just looking for a fun extracurricular activity.”

“I was completely green my freshman year when I began shooting,” says Michael Campbell, a senior information technology major and team captain.

Each trap or skeet event consists of four rounds of 25 shots.  According to Campbell, he started off shooting a score of 11 or 13 a round.

“I had just awful scores, but I was hooked,” he says.  “So, I practiced, and with time it came pretty naturally.”

For other team members like Austin Hall, a sophomore majoring in government, shooting just clicked.  Hall shot 23 out of 25 on his round a year and a half ago.

“The team told me I was pretty good and that I should come back,” he says.  “It was addicting, and I couldn’t stay away.”

Renee Murphy, a sophomore business management major, first shot a gun shortly before she turned 18 and received a pink shotgun for her birthday.

“I loved it, and I grew up on the same street as an alumna of the team,” says Murphy.  “I knew I had to look up the team.”

As the only girl on the team Murphy finds herself balancing her tomboy and girly sides.

“I’ve always been out playing with boys, so it is definitely easy to fit in with all the guys,” she says.  “But I try to keep my accessories girly, and they tease me for that.”

Despite the teasing, her team members feel she is an asset to the team.

“Renee consistently wins the high overall score for ladies,” says Hanna.  “She is a great shot, a great state champion and a great teammate.”

In July, the team will compete in their last event together at the Virginia State Trap Shoot, an event that is open to the general public.  Last year, Campbell earned first place in three events, and Murphy won first place in one event.

“I came onto the team with only two months of shooting experience, and I won the ladies state champion title a year later,” says Murphy.  “I’m hoping that I can take home the state champion title again this July.”

“We didn’t lose a single Eastern event we competed in this season,” says Hall.  “I’m hoping we continue that streak.”

“There’s a very good possibility that the Virginia state champion for the women and men’s categories will be two of us,” says Campbell.  “It’s an individual sport, but we give each other confidence, and it’s intimidating for others to see us lined up together.”

Although the team is competing against each other in a sense, they do what they can to help each other and form relationships off of the range.

“I give a lot of credit to Gary and to Michael,” says Hall.  “Michael has especially taken me under his wing, and I wouldn’t be the shooter I am without his help.”

“I’m not a big social person, but it was important for me to find something to be involved in,” says Campbell.  “I’ve made friends from other schools and even met legislators and come across good networking opportunities because of the team.  It’s a very tight-knit community.”

For more information about the team, email gmutrapandskeet@gmail.com.

Write to Robin Herron at rherron@gmu.edu

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