FHSU shooting team places second at national contest

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

For the second year in a row, the Fort Hays State University shooting team finished second at nationals.

The 44th annual Association of College Unions International National Clay Target Competition concluded last month in San Antonio, Texas.

FHSU brought 14 shooters, part of 520 participants from 57 colleges.

Junior Damian Giles said it was more difficult to finish runner-up this year.

"This year, there were a bunch of rules changes," Giles said. "We were up against a lot more teams this year."

Giles -- who won the combined event -- and sophomore Print Zutavem both were All-American selections. FHSU also won as a team in two events -- American trap and International trap.

"The combined is a very prestigious award," said FHSU coach Duane Shepherd.

"This is by far the best I've ever done," said Giles, in his third year on the team.

Quinter junior William Leighton also participated at nationals. Similar to Giles, he has been a competitive shooter since an early age.

When Leighton graduated from Hutchinson Community College and was looking for a place to transfer, he was encouraged to check out FHSU and also the shooting team.

Leighton liked the technology studies program and enrolled. He also made the shooting team; he's in his second year.

This summer, Leighton will go out on weekends to help promote the school.

Squads of five shooters go to state shoots on weekends. They bring along a slideshow about FHSU.

"We promote Fort Hays," Leighton said. "We're ambassadors."

Leighton also likes the weekend getaways for another reason.

"Gives me a chance to get off the farm," he said with a laugh.

Leighton went to nationals five years in a row in 4-H. He shot more rifles and hand guns competitively than shotguns back then.

He notices a difference at FHSU. There really is a team atmosphere, he said.

"I've never been with a team like this -- it's a real team," Leighton said. "We're all pretty good friends."

After a pair of runner-up finishes, Leighton and Giles agree what's next for the team -- a championship.

"That's the goal," Giles said.