March Madness isn’t all about college basketball as the nation’s top collegiate shotgun competitors get set to embark on their own brand of madness during the 2013 Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Collegiate Clay Target Championships March 26-31 in San Antonio, Texas.

ACUI has organized the collegiate clay target championships for 45 years. With the support of the industry as sponsors, mentors, volunteers and event supporters, ACUI welcomes students of all skill level to the championships. Participation in the event has more than doubled in the past six years with 535 athletes from 57 schools and universities participating in 2012. This growth has attracted new teams and attention while giving youth programs a bridge to the collegiate level. Activity in the youth arena by AIM, 4-H, and SCTP programs continually creates a demand from competition, training and general interest.

The Collegiate Clay Target Championships have been held at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio each spring for over 20 years. In 2012, the event divvied out $10,000 in scholarships and over $100,000 in Scholastic Shooting Trust endowment funds. The event features championships in all the major disciplines of shotgun competition including: American Skeet and Trap; International Skeet & Trap; 5-stand and Sporting Clays.

New in 2013, ACUI, in coordination with USA Shooting, is sanctioning the First Annual International Shootout (ISO) on Wednesday, March 27, as a prelude to the Championships. The course of fire for International Bunker Trap and International Skeet will be a 75-target Preliminary Round plus a Final Round.

The top six competitors in the men and women’s division from the ACUI International Divisional Championships earlier this year in Tucson, Ariz., and Ft. Benning, Ga., received an automatic invitation. Additional ISO slots were filled by college athletes that participate in the ACUI Divisional Championships but did not make the top six, and finally by any athlete who has participated in a USAS-sanctioned event in the last 12 months.

“We hope that these partnered events will attract attention to USA Shooting programs and increase participation in International-style competition and opportunities for future Olympic athletes,” said Michael Theimer, 1976 Olympian and the Youth Programs and Athlete Development Manager for USA Shooting.

The shotgun sports program at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., has become the center of the collegiate shotgun shooting universe having won nine consecutive team championships. They are presently coached by skeet legend Shawn Dulohery, a 17-year member of the USA Shooting National Team who finished fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and was a five-time World Champion and World Cup medalist. Lindenwood’s alumni ranks include 2008 Olympian Sean McClelland along with current National Development Team member Haley Dunn (Muenster, Texas). Currently shooting for them are National Junior Team members Bradley Beckmann (Chesterfield, Mo.), Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas) and Corey Spruill (St. Charles, Mo.) as well as new U.S. Olympic Training Center resident and Development Team athlete Casey “Jake” Wallace (Castiac, Calif.) and nationally-ranked skeet shooter Morgan Craft (Muncy Valley, Pa.).

Also among the field of competitors this week are USA Shooting National Team members Miranda Wilder (Diana, Texas) of Schreiner University and Caitlin Connor (Winnfield, La.) competing for Pikes Peak Community College. At the recent International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Acapulco, Mexico, Wilder finished fifth overall, making it to the semifinal with 73/75 hits. She was unable to advance in the 15-shot semifinal, hitting 11. Wilder, a four-time National Junior Olympic champion, has finished runner-up at the past two USA Shooting National Championships and was the 2010 Junior World Champion. Connor, who has medaled in each of the last four USA Shooting National Championships dating back to 2009, will compete at the upcoming ISSF World Cup in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE) in April but couldn’t be more excited to first get out and spend some more time behind her gun.

“I’m anxious to get out and shoot after a long winter and having been absorbed in my studies for far too long,” said Connor. “This is an opportunity for me to get out and have some fun competing in all the events that make our sport great and to assess where I’m at overall as we look ahead to a busy season.”

Connor’s teammates on the trip to UAE will also include skeet shooters Craft and National Junior Team member Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas), a World Cup bronze medalist in 2012 and the 2011 USA Shooting National Championships silver medalist. Both will be among the field of elite skeet shooters competing at ACUIs.

Founded in 1914, ACUI is a nonprofit educational organization that brings together college union and student activities professionals from hundreds of schools in seven countries. Its members work on urban and rural campuses, in two-year and four-year institutions, and at large and small schools.

Image courtesy USA Shooting

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