Shooting Team Thrilled to Compete After March Cancellations

For Liberty senior shotgun team member Chloe Sterner, 2020 has been a year of surprises. But perhaps the biggest was an appearance on the cover of Clay Target Nation magazine while competing for Liberty this summer, four months after her March championship was cancelled. 

 “It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Sterner said. “It was so random and unexpected. I didn’t feel like I did anything to deserve it.”

For Sterner and the two other club sports shotgun members who attended the Scholastic Clay Target Program National Championship over the summer, the tournament was the chance to make up for lost time after the ACUI National Championship was cancelled in March.

Junior Elijah Labrozzi and sophomore Victoria Hendrix joined Sterner at the SCTP National Championships in mid-July. Labrozzi participated on a squad that won third place in sporting clays and fourth in American Skeet. Hendrix won second place in Ladies Collegiate Bunker Trap and third in Ladies International Collegiate Skeet. 

With the challenges of a school year cut short by COVID-19 in the spring, Sterner said that she was glad to be able to compete again.

“It is really great to go back (to) competing,” Sterner said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it. … It’s one of the most incredible, satisfying, fulfilling (things). But it also pushes me so much. One of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of.” 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the cancellation of the ACUI Championship, this year’s SCTP National Championships looked different than past years. Many of the players could not practice regularly because of COVID related restrictions.

“For me, I didn’t have a lot of training,” Labrozzi said. “The ranges were shut down near me. I couldn’t train for it.” 

For many shooters, the lack of practice led to more errors than usual. While Labrozzi – an experienced shooter – was not as worried about his technique, his mental rustiness worried him heading into the competition.

“For shooting, when you get to a high level, most of the mistakes you make are mental mistakes,” Labrozzi said. “I committed more of them myself, I know that. Just because, being out of practice, bad habits might come back, and you might make more mental mistakes than normal. I think everyone was a little rusty.”

Labrozzi said that due to the lack of practice, athletes felt a little bit less pressure to win – and they enjoyed the competition more as a result. 

“I just went for fun to see some friends and shoot with some friends,” Labrozzi said. “Everyone was on a level playing field, not being able to practice. It was a unique look of not being ready for it but just going to have fun.”

Members of the shooting team get some practice in.

Hendrix echoed this sentiment from her own experience at the championship. 

“There was more of an air of (fun),” Hendrix said. “We (were) just here to have fun and compete. It was a lot of fun because there wasn’t that underlying super, super competitive current with a number of the athletes that sometimes go to bigger competitions. It was really carefree. Everyone was just there for the genuine love of shooting and their friends.”

In addition to sharing their experiences from over the summer, the athletes also spoke about how they viewed the upcoming season for the shotgun team. According to the shooters, one of the biggest assets for the team is
the community. 

“So far, a lot of the incoming freshmen, transfer, new recruits on the team have been having a lot of fun, and we’ve just been enjoying them all,” Hendrix said.

Hendrix said that in spite of a strange season due to the pandemic, she is confident the team will be able to become a closer-knit unit.

“The inner aspect (of the team) is going to be great, although I’m not sure how the competitive aspect is going to look,” Hendrix said. “I’m excited for it all the same, I just think it will definitely be a lot different from last year. There’ll be more focus this year on team bonding as opposed to team travel.”

Because of the virus, many of the competitions have been converted to a virtual format, so every team will compete at its own course and submit scores to the head of the competition. 

Labrozzi, Hendrix and Sterner are all leaders on the team and hope to be positive influences on other members. 

“When I came in as a freshman, there were a lot of juniors on the team already,” Labrozzi said. “Most of the team was constructed of upperclassmen. Some of the juniors and seniors … were super helpful to me and I would say mentors to me. … Having that opportunity now, being a junior and being a mentor to the freshmen coming in is going to be a really unique experience.”

Sterner also hopes to impact the team on a spiritual level. She plans to use her platform as a spiritual leader for club sports to encourage other club athletes in their faith, something she has seen modeled by Head Coach Roger Johnson.

“We try to help disciple, lead a prayer and make sure the team is growing holistically,” Sterner said. “That’s really why I like Coach Johnson. He is all about making sure everyone is doing well as people and putting God first. This season will see a lot of discipline and development: not only as shooters, but as people.” 

Christian Shields is a Sports Reporter.

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