San Antonio, Texas - In the midst of the NCAA Basketball tournaments, the Association of College Unions International and the NRA decided to have a tournament of their own during the ACUI Clay Target Championships at the National Shooting Complex.
Students were invited to enter into the NRA All-American Shootout, a unique two-man flush event that had been set up to run during the week. Nearly $4,000 in entry fees were raised for scholarship funds for graduating high school seniors who would like to continue their shooting career in college.
Participating shooters were placed into men's and women's brackets and shot in daily two-man flush events until the pool had been narrowed to an elite eight in each bracket.
In the men's bracket, Lindenwood's Robby Wahlbrink faced off against Bethel's Abel Spire and Texas A&M's Logan Gaskins was paired up with Lindenwood's Matt Hughes. Wyoming's Jessica Arland was facing Lindenwood's Sarah Hughes in the women's bracket and Bethel's Ashleigh Hafley was to shoot against her sister Sarah.
All rounds had previously had been shot in the daytime, but it was night now and shooters had to adjust while they were shown how the combinations of throwers were set up. At point seven there was a surprise in store for the shooters. A high arching clay that came out of the throw vertically going almost straight up, the pigeon had been turned upside down. Without the ability to see its neon orange side, the pigeon would be extremely difficult to hit, but rewarding for those who could. Unlike the other clays in the flush that were only worth one point, this one was worth two.
The matchups were all extremely close, both for the men and women. Robby and Logan advanced to the men's finals while Ashleigh and Sarah made it out of the women's bracket.
Men's shooters study the flights of their clays before stepping up to shoot
In an exciting final that had the crowd going wild, Robby and Logan traded positions multiple times until Logan, needing to hit the special 2-point clay in order to take the lead, missed. Robby Wahlbrink was the men's champion and the two shook hands before stepping aside to watch the ladies go at it.
Looking to add another title to Lindenwood's swelling haul over the course of the week, Sarah came out strong, but Ashleigh stayed right with her and had title dreams of her own. Trading leads like the men earlier, the two women finished in a tie and were forced to enter an overtime. Throwing out a wild true pair for the two shooters to try and hit, Ashleigh's aim was a little truer that night, and she raised her hands up as the women's champion to the applause of her Bethel teammates.
Thanks to Larry and Brenda Potterfield and MidwayUSA, there were generous endowment funds awarded to all of the shooters who reached their elite eights. Shooters who did not advance beyond each bracket's elite eight received $1,000, while those who made it to the final four received $2,000. The men's and women's champions each received an additional $5,000 on top of that for their school's Scholastic Shooting Trust. The legacy these funds provide for the shooting program at the school is generous gift. In addition, just for attending the event, schools received endowment funds from SCTP/SSSF, thanks to Midway USA.
Congratulations to Robby and Ashleigh, your schools will feel the benefits of your winnings long after you have graduated and will help ensure their shooting programs continue.