The Fort Hays State University shotgun sports team completed a whirlwind season last month by finishing in the top three of two national competitions in a span of 10 days – in two different cities, more than 1,300 miles apart.
The Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) Collegiate national tournament, normally held during the fall semester, was postponed because of COVID-19 protocols until March 19-21, 2021 – just one week before the annual spring national event, the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Clay Target Championships on March 25-27.
After winning the overall national championship in Division II at the SCTP meet in Marengo, Ohio, Fort Hays State finished third overall in the ACUI meet in San Antonio. At the SCTP competition, FHSU not only claimed its seventh national title in program history, but it scored higher than all the Division I teams as well.
Dr. Duane Shepherd, the team’s coach, said he was impressed with how the team stayed focused while practicing so many hours when all the meets during fall 2020 were canceled because of the pandemic.
“We try to practice the way we are going to shoot at meets,” Shepherd said. “But when we didn’t have any meets during the fall semester, it was kind of hard to keep up the intensity. So I am very proud of how they hung together this past year.”
Cordell Waggoner, a senior from Tribune, closed out his final collegiate season in style this spring.
At the SCTP meet, he finished as the high overall winner (HOA) in the men’s division with 573 out of 600 shots. He also was part of the skeet team, which placed first, and the sporting clays team that placed second (missing out on a tie for first by just one shot). Then at the ACUI competition, he was part of two second-place teams, as well as another, which finished fourth.Waggoner came to FHSU four years ago and worked his way up the ladder while honing his skills behind some of the best shooters in the country.
“It’s hard to believe how lucky I was, to be able to be a part of a team with some really great shooters,” said Waggoner, who is set to graduate in May with a degree in tourism and hospitality management. “Fort Hays State has built such a great program, and it is known all over the country for its great shotgun team.”
Katie Petersen, a graduate student from Fremont, Neb., enjoyed similar success at nationals. After finishing second in the women’s HOA and being part of two winning teams (trap and skeet) at the SCTP meet, just a few days later, Peterson placed first in women’s trap and second in women’s skeet at the ACUI meet. She also was part of two top-four teams at that meet and shot a perfect 100 score in trap to help that team place second.
Petersen had been part of the shotgun team at Doane College in Nebraska while working on her bachelor’s degree. When she was looking for a college to pursue her master’s in art and design, she was drawn to FHSU because of its top-notch painting program, as well as its shotgun team’s national reputation. Students are eligible to compete for six years in collegiate shooting sports.
Petersen said once she met her advisor at FHSU, Assistant Professor Jee Hwang, and toured the new Schmidt Foundation Center for Art and Design, she was hooked. Being able to join the shotgun team was a bonus.
“You couldn’t ask for better coaches or better teammates,” Petersen said. “Everyone encourages each other, and you can feel they are genuine. Being part of a team is such a great way to meet people, and I feel privileged that I am part of the Fort Hays State shotgun team.”
FHSU’s shotgun team, considered a club sport, does not offer scholarships and relies mostly on funding from the Student Government Association and team fundraisers.
“The students are a great bunch of young people, and we are blessed with their commitment to the program and to excellence,” Shepherd said. “They just do what it takes to make it work.”
Students who competed at nationals this spring, listed alphabetically, were:
- Brock Barton, Fairbury, Neb.
- Zach Beers, Syracuse, Neb.
- Nick Borchardt, Johnson Creek, Wisc.
- Katie Dettmann, Avoca, Neb.
- Will Dulohery, St. George
- Gus Dunbar, Milburn, Neb.
- Heather Gordon, Montrose, Colo.
- Hank McVeigh, Lincoln, Neb.
- Katie Petersen, Fremont, Neb.
- Wyatt Pursell, Topeka, KS
- Riley Ross, St. Paul, Neb.
- Lane Sorensen, Hampton, Neb.
- Ryan St. Peters, Godfrey, Ill.
- Logan Smith, Eads, Colo.
- Cordell Waggoner, Tribune
- Cole Ziegelmeier, Gem
- Hailey Zulkoski, Ord, Neb.