Berryville trapshooters have goals aimed high

Friday, July 7, 2017

Five members of the Berryville Trap Shooting Team have taken home the 2017 Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program (AYSSP) Junior State Championship.

The team was one of the 64 qualifying teams from four regional tournaments held recently in Jacksonville. Five of the 64 regional qualifying teams were from Berryville. The winning team consisted of Ross Nance, Clay McCall, Jarrett Stringer, Chet Hudgens and Harley Tittsworth. This is the second consecutive Junior State championship claimed by Berryville.

“There are four regions and out of all the regions, there are probably 500 teams,” assistant coach Shawn Robertson said. “It’s quite an accomplishment to win against 500 other teams.”

At the AYSSP, shooters maintain 16 yards from their target throughout the entire event.

Shawn Robertson said there is more to trapshooting than one may think.

“It starts in sixth grade all the way to senior high,” he said. “The first thing is teaching them how to handle a gun. The shooters must learn the game itself, which takes a while. After they learn the game, they can start fine-tuning their shooting skills. One thing at a time, just start small."

In addition to the accomplishments of the junior team, three members of the Berryville Trap Shooting Senior teams were selected for Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) teams. Caleb Broeker, Dustin Robertson and Jaden Youngblood were selected for the Arkansas State team. While ATA shooting events are open to all athletes, selections to the ATA All-American teams are based on points earned during the year.

“The ATA events aren’t team-based like AYSSP,” Dustin Robertson said. “You are competing by yourself against everyone else.”

Dustin Robertson is entering his sophomore season at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville. Robertson is a member of the university’s shooting team, which he led it to its first national championship in school history. He continues to shoot in the ATA events, as is allowed by the association as opposed to the AYSSP, which terminates eligibility for enrollment upon graduating from high school.

“As the year went on, it got fun,” Dustin Robertson said. “Being part of the (All American) team was really fun. That opens up to other forms of shooting such as sporting clays, bunker traps and ice skeet. That is what they shoot in the Olympics. The targets are going about 70 miles an hour. It was a lot harder, but it was a lot of fun.”

During ATA events, competitors begin shooting 16 yards away from the target and step back no farther than 27 yards.

“The better scores you shoot, the further back you will move,” Youngblood said. “If you shoot 96 out of 100, you get pushed back. It changes a lot. Just 10 or 15 yards can make a world of difference."

Youngblood knows it's important to stay focused while shooting.

"I have had a lot of people tell me that it's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," Youngblood said. "After shooting as much as I have, I can say it's pretty much true. When you let your mind wander, you fail."

Broeker, who will be a junior at Berryville High School next year, prefers ATA competitions over AYSSP.

“It’s pretty much the same thing over and over,” Broeker said. "As a team deal, if you shoot good and somebody else shoots bad, that messes up the whole deal. It costs a lot of money to do it, and we don’t have any sponsors. Every once in a while, we get sponsored with a few boxes of shells, but it’s a lot of fun. Every place is different. Every range is different. It’s great being able to get out and travel."

Broeker said he enjoys the camaraderie of being outdoors and hanging out with friends while meeting new people at ATA shoots. "It's all different age groups," Broeker said. "You meet people, anywhere from 9 years old to 90 years old and they are out there in wheelchairs. Pretty much anyone can shoot if they have the capability and they want to. It's not like football or baseball where it's only in school. You can shoot for the rest of your life if you want."

Dustin Robertson adds that being able to meet people along the way as he has grown in the sport has been one of his favorite things about trapshooting.

"There's an Olympic bronze medalist in international skeet down in Tillar," Dustin Robertson said. "He will help me anytime I go down there. He will help give me tips in any new sport I'm shooting. People like that in the sport is what makes it good because mostly everyone is willing to help whether you are the competition or not."

The Grand American World Trapshooting Championships will start on August 2 in Sparta, Ill. There will be around 7,000 registered shooters at the event. Robertson, Youngblood and Broeker will be competing in the event.

“Last year, we were on the aim team, which is team-based," Robertson said. “We can choose our teams and whoever shoots the best out of 1,000 gets an award. It’s really tough. We got first in double A category shooting 989 targets”.

Shawn Robertson said the shooters going to the championships in Sparta will be going through a lot of ammunition.

“They will shoot around 3,200 registered targets," Shawn Robertson said. “That’s in about a 14-day span. Plus, they will practice another 100 a day so you can add 1,400 to that. By the time they get home, they will have shot somewhere around 4,500 targets in two weeks. Most people don’t do that in 10 years. These kids will put it down in two weeks.”

Broeker is looking forward to the challenge.

“It isn’t easy shooting that many targets.” Broeker said. “Therefore it’s important to take my mind off things during the competition. It’s a mental game. If you go up there and start thinking about what mom is making for dinner, you are going to miss. Just go dumb up there. If you miss a bird, you are pretty much going home.”

The Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program is the nation’s largest state-operated youth trapshooting league. Initiated in 2006 by the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, the program has grown from just over 900 kids to a nation-leading 5,400 kids with 700 coaches in less than five years. The program is focused on providing a fun, safe environment for participating in shooting sports and reconnecting kids with the joy of being outdoors. AYSSP raises awareness of conservation-related sports, promotes safety and responsibility, and raises self-esteem.

The Berryville trap shooting team was coached by Steve Warren, Vince Broeker, Vance Cross and Shawn Robertson.

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