Guns and Rose

Abbie Rose lines up a shot at the ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships.

It doesn’t get as much attention as college football. But for these student-athletes, it was the equivalent of playing in the Rose Bowl for the season championship.

Last month, 569 men and 131 women representing 75 colleges and universities from around the country descended on the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas for the 48th Annual ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships. For six days, these collegiate shotgunners competed in American Skeet, American Trap, International Skeet, International Trap, Sporting Clays and 5-Stand.

Since its inception in 1968, the Collegiate Clay Target Championships has seen exceptional growth, leading to the development in 2006 of the Clay Target Championship Shotgun Bowl Series. These12 regional events offers shotgun athletes around the country varied disciplines in which to compete, and culminates with the Collegiate Championships in San Antonio.

Winners are determined by those schools competing in all six disciplines (go here to see the full list of individual and team awards and standings), but it's the shooters themselves who often make the best stories. So many of them are great examples of what the shooting sports can do to build character in an individual, but one in particular stood out to me: Abigale "Abbie" Rose, from Wakefield, Rhode Island. Abbie attends Virginia Tech as a Dairy Science Major and will graduate May 2016. She's an outstanding young adult whose hard work, determination, willpower, and grace will mark a successful journey in life and in shooting.

Abbie studies at Virginia Tech when she’s not on the trap or skeet range.

I first met Abbie during the 2015 Great Eastern Lobster Classic at Addieville East Farm in Mapleville, Rhode Island. She was visiting her family during her summer break when she and her dad stopped by to see the event and vendors. I took Abbie out for a Syren shotgun demonstration. Syren is a collaborative venture between Caesar Guerini and Fabarm, is a line of shotguns with features designed to fit the women shooter, and Abbie took to the Syren Tempio Sporting 12 gauge from her first shot.

Abbie started shooting when she was 12 years old and joined the Virginia Tech Clay Target Team in the spring of her freshman year. Her grandfather and her father, who is an excellent skeet shooter and had been a member of the Trinity University shooting team, taught Abbie how to shoot and hunt. Skeet shooting is her favorite of all the shotgun sports.

Last fall, I had a chance to see Abbie shoot her new Syren at the ACUI Upper East Coast Conference Championships, and we met again during the recent ACUI Nationals in Texas. I watched her shoot her last round of trap. When she finished we had a chance to catch up:

Abbie busts a target at a trap range at the ACUI championships.

Range 365: What compelled you to join your college team?

Abbie Rose: I originally applied to Virginia Tech and fell in love with it for its Dairy Science department, but when I figured out they had a clay target team, that was the cherry on top. I loved to shoot and wanted to improve my skills. I got lucky that the team is full of wonderful people that have become my lifelong friends, which helped to solidify my involvement in the team.

R365: What has being a collegiate shooting athlete taught you about yourself?

AR: Collegiate shooting has taught me about my determination and willpower. We are mostly a self-taught team, and the only way I have ever seen significant improvement in my shooting is by grinding through rounds. This takes a lot of initiative and determination to succeed. Knowing that I have the will to make myself a better shooter has shown me that I can apply the same determination in other areas of my life."

R365: How have you balanced school studies with becoming an accomplished shooter?

Abbie connects on a skeet target at the ACUI championships.

AR: Balance has always been a big part of school, as I am heavily involved in two other clubs. I am fortunate that I hate procrastination, and if I have an upcoming deadline, I try to meet it as soon as possible and get the work done. This has allowed me to balance all my extracurricular activities. Of course, there were some days where I had to miss practice to get work done, and others where I had late nights doing schoolwork because I chose to travel for a shoot one weekend. As a senior looking back, I wouldn't change one decision to go to a shoot. I would tell younger shooters that in 30 years, you aren't going to remember what classes you missed to attend the Clay Target Championships in San Antonio. However, I'm certain you'll create memories that week at the shoot that will last a lifetime.

R365: Collegiate shooting tournaments calculate both individual and team scores. How have you handled being a team player versus striving for individual success?

AR: Personally, my goals have always been to beat myself. If I can do that, I am helping the team. On days where that doesn't happen, the next best thing I can do is encourage and congratulate my teammates on their successes. When I joined the team freshman year, I looked up to all the seniors on our team tremendously for this behavior, among others. I hope that one day the younger kids on our team can feel the same way about me.

R365: What is your most memorable event to date being on the team?

The Lindenwood University team took High Over All honors at the ACUI championships.

AR: By far my most memorable experience was my first Nationals trip in 2015. I had received a grant from the Higgins Branchini Shooting Foundation that year, and during skeet I shot my first-ever 25 straight. After the round, the founders of the grant came up to congratulate me. They had seen the whole thing. It was an awesome moment.

R365: Shooting is a journey that takes time to master. What is the next skill you're ready to learn to continue the journey?

AR: While I'm always trying to improve my skeet shot, I know the next step for me is to practice sporting clays to become a more well rounded shooter. Oftentimes at shoots, I am not versatile enough in my skills to be as competitive as I'd like to be. I need to focus on my biggest weakness in order to improve.

Go Terps! Members of the University of Maryland Shotgun Sports Team check scores.

R365: Who has had the most impact on your shooting?

AR: Honestly, I shoot because of my dad and grandfather. Unfortunately, just recently my grandfather passed away, and now every time I step onto the skeet field I know he is with me. He was my hero, and I do my best on and off the field to make him proud every day.

Editor’s note: Author Anne Mauro is the head coach of the University of Maryland Shotgun Sports Team.

An ACUI competitor in action.