University of the Ozarks junior Grace Brown won the 2017 national championship in international bunker trap at the Association of College Unions International Collegiate (ACUI) National Tournament on March 29.
It is the first national championship for the program, and the first individual national championship for the school. Brown, a native of Booneville, hit 99 out of 125 to advance to a shoot-off. In the finals, Brown first hit 22 out of 25. She followed that performance by hitting three of five, and then hit eight out of 10 to clinch the national championship.
“It was a surreal moment,” said Brown. “My heart was racing. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been at a competition. We were all emotional after it happened.”
Brown also earned s spot on the USA Shooting Collegiate team and a $1,000 scholarship as a result of the championship.
Sierra Stokes, from Texas Tech University, finished behind Brown. Stephanie Gutierrez from Martin Methodist finished third. Freshman Summer Sanders, a native of Greenwood, finished fourth, giving Ozarks two of the top four shooters in the nation in international bunker trap.
The Ozarks team is coached by Caleb Hemphill. Brown’s father, Lance Brown, is the assistant coach and also the head coach of Booneville High School’s team that competes in the AGFC’s shooting sports program.
According to head coach Hemphill, Brown and Sanders were two of only 15 shooters to qualify for a chance at the national championship.
“Grace was calm and didn’t break a sweat,” said Hemphill. “To watch one of our shooters win a national championship was the proudest moment of my life. It was remarkable to have two shooters finish in the top four.”
At her father’s urging, Brown began shooting at an early age, grew to enjoy it, and then began winning championships while beating the boys. She was part of Booneville High’s shooting sports team in AYSSP.
Though her mother graduated from Ozarks, Brown said she enrolled at Ozarks primarily because of the schools’ emerging shooting sports program, which was started with the help of the AGFC and its AYSSP coordinator, Chuck Woodson in 2012.
Woodson said Ozarks was the first college in the state to begin a club shooting sports team on that level. Now, there are seven state colleges competing; the state collegiate championship was staged near Tillar at the Delta Resort and Conference Center’s Olympic-style shooting complex in March.
At the national tournament in San Antonio, Ozarks finished sixth out of 32 teams in Division 3 American Trap, marking its best finish. Ozarks placed 21st out of 34 teams in Division 3 American Skeet, 22nd out of 26 teams in Division 3 International Skeet, 11th out of 30 teams in Division 3 Five-Stand and 16th out of 32 teams in Division 3 Sporting Clays. In the Division 3 high overall standings, Ozarks was 13th overall and outpaced such larger schools as Arkansas State, the University of Virginia and the University of Colorado. Eighty-five universities were represented in both men’s and women’s divisions, along with more than 800 individual competitors.
Brown says her ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team and compete in the Olympics. When school is out, she gives back to AYSSP by helping at the state tournaments, Woodson said.
“I hired Grace a couple of years ago as a part-timer to help run our tournaments,” Woodson said. “Most of the ones I have hired have shot in the program. That speaks well for AYSSP and the people who compete. They participate, it continues on and we hire the same shooters to come back and work. It runs full circle. That’s great.”
There were 85 universities represented at the national tournament, and there are over 800 competitors.
Ozarks continued to compete at the ACUI National Tournament through Sunday.