LA GRANDE — Students from universities across the country competed in trapshooting events this fall when traditional varsity athletics were on hold.

Although the ACUI clay target league nationals were canceled in spring, the organization held a virtual nationals qualifier in October.

Eastern Oregon University’s trapshooting team finished ninth in the nation and first in the West overall, beating out regional rivals. Over the course of the month, competitors recorded scores at their home ranges in four events — trapshooting, trap doubles, skeet shooting and skeet doubles. Team scores were tallied and validated, then announced earlier this month.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, trapshooting events kept competitors outdoors and 9 feet apart. These gun safety regulations meant that the team could continue to compete throughout the fall.

In trapshooting events, EOU placed eighth in the nation and first in the West region, outshooting Boise State, University of Idaho and other big name schools.

Unlike other years, the ACUI Virtual Shotgun Bowl Series grouped teams by region rather than size, so EOU competed against community and junior colleges, as well as large universities. The team’s highest scorer, Bryce Otley, hit 99 out of 100 targets.

“I was able to stay focused on school, and make connections with students I might have not met otherwise. I was also able to participate in a sport that will go beyond college,” Otley said. “It is a sport that has endless opportunities.”

EOU also has a casual trapshooting student club that welcomes first-time participants. This year, 65 students have participated in weekly club nights. Three women are on the competitive team, but the student club is largely made up of women.

“It’s a really empowering and stress-relieving activity,” EOU Assistant Coach Kathryn Shorts said.

Men and women compete together on EOU’s Trapshooting team, but individual high scores are separated by gender. Freshman Savannah Shorts recorded the highest score among women on the team, placing 15th in the nation for women.

“If there is anything that I wish more people knew about trapshooting (besides the fact, no, we are not shooting traps and, no, we do not use blanks, we shoot live rounds), it’s that trapshooters are not scary,” Shorts said. “My sport is filled with kind people that want everyone to have a good time and be successful.”

Eight of the 17 team members received trapshooting scholarships to attend EOU, and the program hopes to expand scholarship opportunities in the future.

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