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Straight shooters

Clay target national champions blow the competition away

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  • Story by Josh Murray
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: June 15, 2011
Mizzou students Ryan Mason and Alison Caselman

Battling through adversity is a must for anyone on the road to a national championship. Mizzou students Ryan Mason and Alison Caselman know that well. Both faced their share of obstacles before claiming national titles at the ACUI Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships in San Antonio earlier this spring.

Mason, a senior majoring in agriculture business, won the Men’s Combined Trap Events competition. Caselman, who has just completed her sophomore year as an art education major, claimed the national championship in Women’s American Trap Shooting.

“The competition is a huge rush,” Mason says. “I love the feeling, but at the same time, it can be quite nerve-racking.”

Creative problem-solving

Anxious moments came for both Mason and Caselman on their way to winning the titles.

“I never thought I had a chance because on the first day of the competition my shotgun broke,” Mason says. “I had to take parts from two very different guns and put them together to make one usable shotgun just to be able to compete.”

The makeshift shotgun worked — or maybe it should be said that Mason found a way to make it work.

The challenge Mason faced in the competition was nothing compared to what he had been through earlier in his life. His mother died when he was in high school. He also has lost an uncle, an aunt, a cousin, his best friend and his college roommate.

“All of that wasn’t easy to get through,” Mason says. “But I choose to focus on the good times I had with them and use it as an opportunity to grow stronger.”

The strength gained through those hardships gave Mason the ability to handle any difficult situation.

In San Antonio, Mason hit 194 out of 200 targets to win the championship. At a previous competition, he'd hit 289 consecutive targets and finished the event by hitting 299 out of 300.

Shooting through the glass ceiling

Mizzou students Ryan Mason and Alison Caselman

Mizzou students Ryan Mason and Alison Caselman earned national titles at the 2011 ACUI Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships.

Like Mason, Caselman ran into her own difficulties along the road to the national championship. Three weeks before going to Nationals, Caselman says, her practice at Prairie Grove didn’t go well.

“I was shooting, and almost every time I missed,” Caselman says. “My dad adjusted the gun a little before going to nationals. It was kind of a risky move to make, but it worked out.”

Caselman is no stranger to taking chances. She began shooting competitively when she joined the National FFA Organization trap team while in high school in Hallsville, Mo. She was the only girl on the team. That wasn’t easy at first. However, things quickly changed.

“It became fun because I usually beat half of the boys on my team,” Caselman says.

Competing for Mizzou

Now Caselman is following in the footsteps of her brother, who was on the Mizzou team five years before Caselman joined. She used to attend many of her brother’s competitions with her parents, an experience she says helped her feel more comfortable when she arrived at MU.

“By going to those competitions and getting to know a lot of the members before I was in college, it helped me feel more invited into the group when I was a freshman,” she says. “Shooting is definitely an individual sport, but my team has been there and helped me become the shooter I am today.”

Mason also has found a home at Mizzou. He was born in Beverly Hills, Calif., and grew up in St. Louis. He graduated from Brentwood High School in 2006 and then enrolled in Mizzou.

“I really fell in love with this school,” says Mason, who also earned the title of All-American this year. “It’s been a great place for me to grow and become a better person.”

Caselman and Mason exceeded their expectations this year by bringing home the national championship titles.

“For a while, it didn’t feel real,” Caselman says. “Sometime, it still feels like a dream I had. I don’t think I stopped smiling for about three to four days after it. I am still shocked that I went out and shot as well as I did.”

Now that they’re national champions, the bar has been raised.

“It really just makes me want to win more,” Mason says.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012