Wray, ASU excel in trap shooting

Friday, September 28, 2012

When James Wray came to Arkansas State University, little did he know he would be able to continue doing something he has enjoyed his whole life -- trap shooting.

James Wray poses with the trophy he won at the Grand American Championships in Sparta, Illinos. (Photo submitted)

The senior from Payneway has always hunted and participated in skeet shooting, but it was always alone until he attended Ridgefield Christian High School in Jonesboro. In his final year, he was able to shoot competitively for his school.

"I started shooting my senior year at Ridgefield and I didn't shoot again until after I got to ASU," said Wray. We didn't have a team at Ridgefield, but I helped get one started. It was a lot of fun. Even though I've been doing it all my life, getting involved with a team is just a way to keep doing it."

Once he enrolled at ASU, he became involved in campus activities thinking his competitive shooting days were over. He is treasurer of the College of Republicans, an engineering senator in the Student Government Association, member of Sigma Chi fraternity, member of American Society of Civil Engineers, a member of the student leadership team at Rising . . ., involved with the college ministry of Central Baptist Church, part of the Honors College Association and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

One day, Pat Turnage (the head of the Harrisburg Trap Club), called me and said, "Hey, we're getting a team going on campus and we need you to come to a meeting," continued Wray. "I went to the meeting and was elected vice president of the group. A week later, the president had to resign and I was elected president. We got registered with the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) and began competing against other colleges."

That work paid off as ASU recently sent two five-member teams to the Grand American world championships in Sparta, Ill. Behind the coaching skills of Turnage and the administrative leadership of Dr. Gauri-Shankar Guha, associate professor of Economics and Finance and associate director of ASU's International Business Resource Center, the two squads made a haul of both team and individual awards and finished third overall.

"The ASU program has been in existence only eight months," said Dr. Guha. "These students are really committed to the sport. We are really thankful to Dr. Rick Stripling (vice chancellor for Student Affairs) and Dr. Len Frey (vice chancellor for Finance and Administration) for helping us find a way to go to the competition."

Both Guha and Turnage say that with the success of ASU's trapshooting program, the two are hearing from students who want to transfer from other colleges who don't have the shooting activities.

About 30 to 40 colleges and universities compete on a regular basis and the Amateur Trapshooting Association, through which shooting events are scheduled, is working to get more universities involved. That organization then hopes to approach the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) about setting up trapshooting as an intercollegiate sport. Currently, Lindenwood University is the only school to provide private scholarships. Wray says that Lindenwood is the model for how good trapshooting programs should be.

"We compete against Mississippi State, Kentucky, Tennessee-Martin, Arkansas, Mississippi College and Lindenwood right now," continued Wray. 'We're hoping to get those programs here for a shoot."

Trapshooting can be an expensive sport as the students must have their own guns, fees, shells, and practice targets. Turnage said guns, a 12-gauge shotgun, can cost up to $20,000 and are individually ordered.

"They can be expensive because they are precision made," continued Turnage. "But, the expense is not necessarily the gun as most people who shoot already own their gun and have been shooting for a while. Also, the gun can be resold. And, not all guns are that expensive."

Dr. Guha and Wray concur that the shells are the most expensive because once they are spent, they can't be reused.

Dr. Guha became involved with the program without ever having shot a gun. "I had never shot a gun before last October, but Pat showed me how. Now I can shoot! It's really fun."

Good vision is the number one criteria for a good trap shooter. Dr. Guha says the clay target comes out of the trap house at 42 miles per hour. The shotgun uses a two and three-fourths inch shell that travels approximately 1,180 feet per second.

Wray agrees that trapshooting is fun and 90 percent mental 10 percent physical.

"You get the mechanics down and then it's all mental," he said. "You have to be totally focused or you'll miss it. Sometimes, if someone misses the target ahead of you, and you hear, 'lost,' you might start thinking about that and you lose focus and you'll miss it too. It becomes contagious. And, then you have to put your gun down, set your mind and get focused again."

Wray shoots pretty quickly - maybe a little over a second. "I say, "pull" and then boom! You've got to be ready to shoot and be focused at the same time. It's awesome."

"It's a good sport," concluded Turnage. "It's a sport you can do for the rest of your life. Other sports can end on you, but not trapshooting."

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