By FHSU University Communications
With a “chemistry of winning,” the FHSU shotgun sports team’s dedication to their sport and their fellow teammates has made for a highly successful 2022-23 season.
In March alone, the team brought home two Division 2 national championships and won the first-ever Federal Cup being the High Overall Team across all divisions at the National Collegiate Shooting Sports Athletic Association (NCSSAA) event. During 16 days of shooting and travel, the team competed at the NCSSAA Nationals in Las Vegas, earning five All-American shooters and four honorable mentions. Traveling then to San Antonio for the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Collegiate Championship, the team earned nine All-Americans and first place in trap, skeet, skeet doubles, and super sport. In addition, FHSU’s varsity team has been undefeated in 2023.
For team members Kyler Niblock, Hoxie sophomore, and Katie Dettmann, Avoca, Neb. senior, the 16-day trip from Las Vegas to San Antonio and winning Division 2 and the federal cup from NCSSAA were highlights for the 2022-23 season.
“We had that goal at the beginning of the year, but to be able to go out and achieve it was something special,” Dettmann said. “We pushed everybody to be there mentally and physically.”
The team’s dedication has rewarded the students both on the range and off. For Dettmann, being a member of the team has contributed to her drive, passion, and dedication.
“We are always working as a team and wanting to better everybody,” she said. “It’s a family. We’re in it together. You are helping everybody, and they are helping you.”
Niblock said he agreed and added, “There is a chemistry on our team of winning. Everyone wants to put in the work and wants to win. Everyone has the same goal of winning.”
“Even if we are struggling, your teammates will be there to help you, no matter what,” Dettmann said.
Balancing academics and shooting sports is central to the responsibility taken seriously by team members. Dr. Duane Shepherd, who is an FHSU professor as well as team coach, said he has impressed upon his team members the importance of responsibility.
Shepherd started the shotgun sports team 18 years ago, writing the constitution, bylaws, and working with five young men who desired to compete collegiately. The team has grown over the years, and next fall will start with about 40 team members representing 11 states.
“These young people have completed a fabulous year in collegiate shotgun sports,” Shepherd said. “They have overcome several challenges, and it has been a privilege to be a part of their success.”
“For years, we were probably the best-kept secret on campus. But the team’s success is all due to the students’ dedication and discipline and reaching the level that it takes to compete. In college, they are up against the top 1 or 2 percent in the nation.”
The team competes collegiately and regionally during the fall semester and in (also in collegiate shoots in the spring) national tournaments during the spring semester. Practice and competition, though, continues through the summer as students travel to different states to compete in state championships.
“A lot of us are still practicing and staying sharp,” Niblock said. “Getting better as we participate in more competitions.”
Maintaining solid practice habits is central to the team’s success.
“That mental focus, when everyone’s on the same page, you can help everyone lock in,” Niblock said. “We saw it during both of our trap events when they shot perfect 500s. When some of the team is really clicking and really focused, it can influence the rest of us. That’s awesome to see.”
“Most of the time, if your squad is shooting well, you will shoot well,” Dettmann added. “It’s one of those things where you feed off each other, and you go with the flow. It’s really about the connection and the chemistry.”
Twenty-one students participated in national competitions this spring. Those students include:
Alex Hunter, Hickman, Neb.
Barrett Swenson, Greenfield, Minn.
Colby Cook, Cushing, Okla.
Gus Dunbar, Milburn, Neb.
Hailey Zulkoski, Ord, Neb.
Hank McVeigh, Lincoln, Neb.
Jade Chapman, Papillion, Neb.
Jared Greenwood, Benton, Kan.
Kaden Bryant, Firth, Neb.
Kaden Westfall, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Katie Dettmann, Avoca, Neb.
Kyler Niblock, Hoxie, Kan.
Lane Sorensen, Hampton, Neb.
Lexi Wickham, Goodland, Kan.
Logan Smith, Burwell, Neb.
Mason Weller, Palmer, Neb.
Max Werner, St. George, Kan.
Nick Borchardt, Johnson Creek, Wis.
Riley Ross, St. Paul, Neb.
Xander Winchel, Springhill, Kan.
Zach Beers, Syracuse, Neb.