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FHSU team shooting for more success




It's easy to pick Duane Shepherd out of a crowd.

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It's easy to pick Duane Shepherd out of a crowd.

He's the one with the beaming smile and a puffed up chest.

Shepherd's proud of what his students -- especially those on the Fort Hays State University shooting team -- have accomplished in its short history.

He hands off the credit to the team's members. They're where they are, he said, because of the hard work they've put in.

Where they are is a key point.

They're two-time national champions, winning the Division II Collegiate Clay Target Championships in San Antonio in both 2013 and 2014.

The shooters broke 2,199 clay targets out of 2,330 thrown to walk away with first place in April.

Two of the shooters came away from the 2014 competition with perfect scores.

Damian Giles, North Platte, Neb., broke 100 targets in American skeet and finished second in the shoot-off.

Ashley Nau, Gering, Neb., broke 100 targets in American trap finished first in the shoot-off.

While practice -- and lots of it -- certainly is the driving force behind how well the team does at the shoots, there's more to the story, so to speak.

The FHSU shooting team is more of a family than simply a team.

"We're actually cousins," former team member Ashley Nau said of then-fellow teammate Kilee Hutchinson, who is returning this year.

But it doesn't stop there.

Last year, they said, most members of the team basically lived in the same neighborhood, often ate together and certainly spent a significant amount of time together.

Each one of the team's members shoot 12 gauge shotguns, something of a standard on the trap range and it makes obtaining ammunition easier.

They get donations of shells from ammunition manufacturers, and they reload much of what they shoot, again with donated supplies.

But there's been a sharp boost in interest and participating in shooting sports nationwide.

When FHSU first assembled its team, there were six teams and 28 shooters.

Today, Shepherd said, there's now more than 150 teams and more than 750 team members.

"We don't like to lose," Nau said shortly after the team came back from San Antonio.

"We're that competitive."

"They're a very diverse group," Shepherd said of the team.

"That's been another good thing.

Currently, FHSU has 15 team members, and might have more depending on who shows up this year.