CHESTERTOWN, Md. — Washington College will elevate its highly-successful intercollegiate trap and skeet team to full varsity status beginning with the 2018-19 academic year. It will be the College's 18th intercollegiate varsity sport. The team, which has operated as part of the larger trap and skeet club at the College, is currently in a transitional phase, receiving some support from the athletic department for the 2017-18 academic year. Trap and skeet will be the College's first addition to its varsity sports offerings in 20 years; women's soccer began varsity play in the fall of 1998.
"Trap and skeet is a welcome addition to our varsity portfolio," remarked Director of Athletics Thad Moore. "Our rural setting has long been a draw for students who engage in outdoor sports and recreation, so this is a perfect fit. Washington College offers high school student-athletes in trap and skeet a rare opportunity - to compete under the varsity umbrella, with dedicated institutional backing, while receiving a top-notch liberal arts education. We are excited about the program's continued growth and success as it moves to varsity status."
"We have been chasing the dream of becoming a varsity sport for years," added current trap and skeet head coach Doug Pfaff '10, who was a member of the club when it first began attending competitions. "I remember thinking as a student this would never really happen, but here we are. It's good for the team and the College as a whole. Our team will benefit from a stable budget source as well as increased validity when we recruit. After being with this team for 10 years as a student, alumni advisor, and now head coach, I have seen our program grow and flourish beyond our own initial expectations."
While there are a growing number of intercollegiate trap and skeet teams around the country, fewer than 10 are sponsored as full varsity sports by their institutions' athletic departments. Washington College will be the first such institution to do so in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic regions, giving the program a tremendous recruiting advantage. Trap and skeet is also rapidly growing on the high school level. The USA High School Clay Target League includes 20 state leagues and counting. Elevating the program to full varsity status will also help the College make inroads into some non-traditional recruiting areas. Trap and skeet is already the second-largest high school sport in the state of Minnesota, for example.
Dr. Aaron Amick, the College's Chair of the Chemistry Department, has a unique perspective on the trap and skeet team's transition to varsity status. Dr. Amick currently serves as both the school's Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) and as an assistant coach for the trap and skeet team.
"I have first-hand knowledge of the tremendous benefits of having an intercollegiate team sponsored as a varsity sport," noted Dr. Amick. "The support systems that go along with varsity status will be a huge boon to our trap and skeet student-athletes and the commitment to athletic success demonstrated by both our Athletic Department and the College will provide immeasurable benefits to our program."
Intercollegiate trap and skeet's championships are governed by the Association of College Unions - International (ACUI), which sponsors annual conference championships and the ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships. Washington College's trap and skeet team competes in the ACUI Upper East Coast Conference, which holds its championships in November. This year's ACUI Upper East Coast Conference Championships will be held November 11th and 12th in Glenn Dale, Md. The 2018 ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships will be held March 26th through April 1st at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas. The competition season, which also features regional school-hosted competitions, runs primarily from September through November before restarting in March for the national championships.
Washington College's trap and skeet club formed in the mid-2000s and began attending competitions toward the end of that decade. The College's first appearance at an ACUI conference championship event came in 2010 and its first trip to the national championships came four years later.
"Ten years ago, this was a small club with five to 10 active members who went and shot some targets a few weekends each semester," Pfaff reflected. "We are now a dual organization with a recreational component and a competition team with a roster of 15 student-athletes and we are looking to grow. I think back to the beginning to keep myself grounded as we move forward with this exciting process. There were a lot of struggles back then — 'How do we pay for this?', 'How do we get more members?', 'Where do we go from here?' — but we made it work."
"Made it work" might be an understatement. Over the past four years, the Washington College trap and skeet team has enjoyed a sizable level of success, finishing as high as second in the final team standings at the ACUI Upper East Coast Conference Championships. Patrick McGuinness '17 was the 2016 American Trap B Class National Champion, while Craig Carassanesi '17 was the 2017 International Trap B Class National Champion. Current junior Valerie Fischer is the reigning International Trap C Class National Runner-Up. Another current junior, Danielle Murdock, scored high enough in the American Trap Open Class at last year's national championships to qualify for the Olympic Training Clinic this past summer, held in Arkansas at the site of the 2017 Olympic Fall Selection Match. Washington College finished 14th as a team in Division 3 at the 2017 ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships.
This year's competitive trap and skeet team roster features no seniors, making the outlook bright for next season as the program gains full varsity status. At the team's most recent competition, George Mason's Eastern Regional Championships, Murdock finished as the women's high overall champion and took first place in women's trap and fourth place overall in trap. Fischer was fifth in the overall women's high overall standings. Freshman Nathaniel Neuland, sophomore Conor Ryan, and junior team captain Brendan Demas finished 12th, 14th, and 20th in the men's high overall standings, respectively. As a team, Washington College finished fourth in the high overall standings, just 13 targets behind third place.
The Washington College trap and skeet program takes safety as seriously as it takes skill. Both Pfaff and Amick are certified National Rifle Association (NRA) shotgun instructors and certified NRA shotgun coaches. Pfaff is also a certified NRA range safety officer, while Amick is in the process of completing that same certification. All trap and skeet student-athletes go through a firearms safety training that the two coaches conduct. Both coaches and a number of the team's student-athletes are CPR and First Aid-certified and Fischer is also an emergency medical technician.
About Intercollegiate Trap and Skeet
- Intercollegiate trap and skeet's conference and national championships are conducted by the Association of College Unions - International (ACUI). Scores at the regional conference championships qualify shooters for the Open, A, B, or C Classes at the national championships. Teams at ACUI events are placed in divisions based on the number of shooters they have had compete. Washington College has competed in Division 3, but could move up into Division 2 with the recruiting boost likely to come from the transition to varsity status.
- The ACUI championship events consist of six shotgun disciplines - American Trap, International Trap, American Skeet, International Skeet, Sporting Clays, and Super Sporting Clays. Super Sporting Clays is new for this academic year, replacing Five Stand.
- In Trap, targets are thrown from an oscillating machine from a single house. In Skeet, targets are thrown from both a high house and low house; skeet also features doubles with targets thrown from both houses at once. Sporting Clays is set up to simulate hunting, with shooters walking from station to station featuring a variety of targets thrown. Super Sporting Clays is similar to Sporting Clays, but features four-to-six different targets thrown in different combinations.
- Competitions feature individual scoring and placing which are then used to calculate overall team scores.