Four young men from Henry County are competing at the collegiate level in a sport that doesn’t get much sports page coverage — shotgun. Jacob Yount, Connor Toole, Jordan Campbell and Garrett Black all are competing on the University of Kentucky shotgun team in their freshman year in Lexington.
All four competed for several years on the highly successful Henry County 4-H youth shooting teams and now they have taken the skills they learned as boys to the next level.
According to Yount and Toole, shotgun is a club sport, which means the NCAA does not sanction it. The sanctioning body is the Scholastic Clay Target Program.
All the young men feel that their youth shooting experience has paid big dividends. “We have done almost all of the different competition styles since we were in middle school,” Yount said, “So, the actual shooting aspect of it, we have been prepared for. The difference now, is that most events are out of state that we have to travel to. We have shot on the road a few times in youth competitions, when we went to Nationals in New Mexico and Pennsylvania, but we haven’t had to travel regularly. The trick is to be able to travel, take it in, have fun, and enjoy yourself, but at the same time be able to focus on the competition.”
Toole added, “4-H has helped tremendously because practicing with the coaches in the beginning has helped me hone my skills and the fundamentals of shooting to get me where I need to be on the college level.”
Black has less experience than the others but found that one year of shotgun training has helped. He said, “I picked up shooting shotgun about a year ago. I was talking to Jacob about it and it sounded interesting, so I had to try it. Next thing you know, I’m in the backyard with Dennis Campbell learning the basics of how to shoot trap. It came natural, we won state in trap last year, and from there I knew I wanted to shoot for UK.”
Campbell is the father of the fourth shooter, Jordan Campbell, and is one of the main coaches for the Henry County Youth shooting teams. Jordan also felt the 4-H competitions had given them a leg up. He said, “Having 7 years of experience definitely helps, as well as having connections that I’ve gained by meeting people at competitions.”
When asked how competitions have gone so far, the boys all agreed that it has been a successful transition year for them. “We have held our own so far. Connor had one of the team’s top five scores in the sporting clays discipline at the first competition, which UK won,” Yount said. The top five scorers from your team are determined to see who won each discipline, and then the top five scores from your team combined from all disciplines is used to determine which team is the overall winner.”
Toole agreed, saying competitions have gone well for him. “I made Varsity in my first tryout,” he said. “I didn’t make top 5 but I’m the 7th man.”
Black, Toole, Campbell and Yount all agree that the flexibility they have for practice in their sport has made it less difficult to balance academics and athletics. “It is not as difficult as I thought,” Black said. “We practice once a week, usually on Thursday, and the practices last as long as you make them last. You can practice more than one day a week if you like, but it is hard to do with the schoolwork.”
Campbell said, “While the classes are harder at college, I feel like I have more than enough time to balance shotgun and academics.”
Toole added, “Being in engineering school, in a fraternity and on the shotgun team means I have to manage my time very carefully. The practices are usually on Thursdays and my last class ends at 5 (p.m.) so I go very late. The range usually stays open until 10 (p.m.), so that helps to fit it in my hectic schedule. You can say that I don’t watch much TV or get much sleep anymore.”
When asked about their college experience the boys agreed that it has been challenging but rewarding. “College has been great so far, both shooting wise, and all other aspects,” Yount said. “It has definitely been something I have had to adjust to, but it has been fun. I love UK and I love my new teammates. I’ve made so many new friends both on and off of the shotgun team. I have met people from all walks of life. UK caters to all types of people. It’s a great fit for me.”
Black said, “It’s been a challenge, that’s for sure. The schoolwork is nothing like high school, and it’s hard to adjust, but, so far, I’ve made good grades and shot well so I can’t really complain. I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of new people and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I’d encourage everyone to support UK shotgun, since we aren’t NCAA sanctioned, funds can get a little low. Go UK shotgun and Go Cats!”
Toole added, “It has been fun but a lot of work at the same time. I am enjoying my time up here and I can’t wait for winter break to see my family and friends.”
Campbell said, “I like it much more than high school, between the people, the freedom, and the challenges.”