Collegiate shotgunners square off in American Trap tiebreakers
San Antonio, Texas - There is no final round in American Trap. No last gathering of top shooters for one final opportunity to snag the brass ring. That's saved for the International Championships. With American Trap, the shooter with the high score at the end of the round wins. Simple as that.
That's not to say there's never a situation that calls for another round. There is. If, for example, there's a tie for high score (or any of the top three spots) then it must be resolved. And ties happen. A lot. Just ask Southeastern Illinois' Matt Perkins (pictured above).
In a sport like American Trap, clays are thrown in steady, smooth arcs. International trap clays are thrown faster and further, thus making the the clays more difficult to hit. That's why score American Trap tend to be a bit higher. And when you have the level of talent present at the 2013 ACUI Clay Target Championships, you're going to get a lot of high scores.
In the American Trap Championship, squads of five shotgunners fire four consecutive rounds. Facing 25 targets a round, each competitor steps to the line with an opportunity to score a perfect 100. An opportunity lost for most of us.
To an average shooter on an average range, hitting 90% of your targets is a great day. But not here. Here, 90% barely gets you through the door. With the skill level of these shooters, a small slip-up could cost them a chance at the title. Heck, even scores of 99 were not safe.
At the end of the American Trap day, anyone shooting less then a perfect 100% was sitting on the sidelines. There were ties to break. In fact, there were several ties to break on both sides of the fence; both the men's and the women's side. In all, twelve shooters (nine men and three women) ended the day with 100s next to their name.
Unlike American Skeet (where the tiebreaker shooters engage in a sudden death face-off), American Trap has more of a pseudo-final where all tied competitors shoot another round of 25 clays.
It had to be disappointing. A perfect day spoiled by the perfection of others. After proving their brilliance with 100 straight successes, they would have to prove it again.
The men took to two fields, the women to one, and the showdown began.
Five men fell after 25 clays; Wyoming's Cody Szallar, Fort Hays' Damian Giles, Schreiner's Anthony Gaddy as well as Lindenwood's David Mathias and Andrew Feig had lost their edge. The other four continued their perfection.
The women didn't budge at all. 25 for 25 for all three. Plenty of room on the sidelines there. The tiebreakers continued.
There were ten less clays in round two of the pseudo finals. They also added two more yards. Further away, few opportunities, something was about to give.
It was one miss. One simple miss. One miss that sent Hillsdale's Ian Dupre to the men's sideline. The women remained deadlocked.
Round three called for competitors to move back six additional feet; fifteen clays from twenty yards. The men had their bronze medalist - Southeastern Illinois' Preston Crandell. The women, well, the women. The women remained tied.
Breaking clays during the opening rounds was effortless. A streak or semi-conscience zone of perfection that top athletes are known to experience. But tiebreakers are different.
Tiebreakers are a war of attrition. No one can maintain 100% accuracy forever, but you don't have to. You just have to maintain longer than anyone else.
Three women and two men moved back to the 22 yard line for round four. Anticipation was everywhere. The stands buzzed with excitement ... electrified after watching five of the nation's top collegiate shooters strike 155 consecutive hits. This was where the action was.
Only one woman maintained perfection. Lindenwood's Lauren Mueller, flawless throughout the day, would go home with the gold. Bethel's Erin Danhausen missed once (for silver) while Fort Hays' Ashley Nau missed twice (for bronze). A truly spectacular display of excellence by the ladies while the boys dropped like flies.
The men ended with a sign of perfection too. Perfection by Southeastern Illinois' Matt Perkins who, like the women's champion, maintained his unblemished shooting streak to the very end. In second, with silver, was Joseph Recla of Bethel. Two misses at twenty two yards. Just a bit outside.
That's what's great about American Trap. All you have to do is keep hitting clays. It may take an extra round, or four, but if you keep hitting clays then you'll walk away with the gold. Just ask Mueller and Perkins.