CLARKSVILLE –-(Ammoland.com)- A product of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Youth Shooting Sports Program won a college national championship last week in San Antonio. Grace Brown, a University of the Ozarks junior, won her national title in international bunker trap at the Association of College Unions International Collegiate National Tournament on Wednesday, March 29.
It marked the first national championship for the program and the first individual national championship for the school. Brown, an Early Childhood Education major from Booneville, hit 99 out of 125 targets to advance to a shoot-off. In the final round, she hit 22 out of 25, came back to hit 3 of 5 targets, and won the championship by hitting 8 of 10 in a third round. By winning the event, she earned a spot on the First USA Shooting Collegiate Team and a $1,000 scholarship.
“It was a surreal moment,” Brown said. “My heart was racing. It was the most nervous I've ever been at a competition. We were all emotional after it happened.”
Summer Sanders, a native of Greenwood and an Ozarks freshman student, finished fourth behind Texas Tech’s Sierra Stokes and Stephanie Gutierrez from Martin Methodist.
The Ozarks team is coached by Caleb Hemphill. Brown’s father, Lance Brown, is the assistant coach and also the head coach of Booneville High School’s team that competes in the AGFC’s shooting sports program.
Brown and Sanders were two of only 15 shooters across the country to qualify for a shot at the national title in bunker trap. “Grace was calm and didn't break a sweat,” Hemphill said. “To watch one of our shooters win a national championship was the proudest moment of my life. It was remarkable to have two shooters finish in the top four.”
At her father’s urging, Brown began shooting at an early age, grew to enjoy it, and then began winning championships while beating the boys. She was part of Booneville High’s shooting sports team in AYSSP. Though her mother graduated from Ozarks, Brown said she enrolled at Ozarks primarily because of the schools’ emerging shooting sports program, which was started with the help of the AGFC and its AYSSP coordinator, Chuck Woodson in 2012.
Woodson said Ozarks was the first college in the state to begin a club shooting sports team on that level. Now, there are seven state colleges competing; the state collegiate championship was staged near Tillar at the Delta Resort and Conference Center’s Olympic-style shooting complex in March.
At the national tournament in San Antonio, Ozarks finished sixth out of 32 teams in Division 3 American Trap, marking its best finish. Ozarks placed 21st out of 34 teams in Division 3 American Skeet, 22nd out of 26 teams in Division 3 International Skeet, 11th out of 30 teams in Division 3 Five-Stand and 16th out of 32 teams in Division 3 Sporting Clays. In the Division 3 high overall standings, Ozarks was 13th overall and outpaced such larger schools as Arkansas State, the University of Virginia and the University of Colorado. Eighty-five universities were represented in both men’s and women’s divisions, along with more than 800 individual competitors.
In the men’s division, Jeff Proctor of Ozarks was the school’s top national finisher, ranking 121 out of 421 shooters. Brown says her ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team and compete in the Olympics. When school is out, she gives back to AYSSP by helping at the state tournaments, Woodson said.
“I hired Grace a couple of years ago as a part-timer to help run our tournaments,” Woodson said. “Most of the ones I have hired have shot in the program. That speaks well for AYSSP and the people who compete. They participate, it continues on and we hire the same shooters to come back and work. It runs full circle. That’s great.”