Jeff Proctor and Summer Sanders
CLARKSVILLE (KFSM)- Sharp-shooting by junior Grace Brown led to the first-ever national championship for the University of the Ozarks.
"I really didn’t think I was going to make it into the finals," said Grace Brown. "Just going down there I was like okay I’m just going to work on the fundamentals. I just went out there and was like okay it’s whatever happens, happens I’m just happy to be here. I just happened to come out first."
The Booneville native rose above her competition at the ACUI National tournament last month, hitting a combined 33-out-of 40 clay targets in the final round to capture gold in international bunker trap.
"It was crazy I was trying to hold back the tears," said Brown. " As soon as I got to the stands I started balling and of course both of my parents were crying it was a surreal moment."
Brown says it was changes in her shooting style and mindset, made shortly before the tournament, that helped her claim the title.
"I went down to Tiller and got a new coach," said Brown. "He ended up changing everything I have never known about shooting. I was really aggressive, I was really getting to the bird I attacked it and he was really wanting me to slow down and see it and just connect with it and that really helps.
You would think that a national champion like Grace would have been a long time fan of the sport, but it took some coercion by her father, who happens to be the assistant coach, to get her behind the gun.
"My dad and brother have always been really big into shooting," said Brown. "My dad forced me to do it. I really hated it at first, I wasn’t very good I only hit like two or three out of 25. I just didn’t like going to practice or anything but then once my brother graduated I started to pick it up and started shooting better."
She was also drawn by the challenge of competing in a male-dominated sport.
" I started beating boys so that was really the basic motivation," said Brown. "And I basically came to the U-of-O for the shooting team and I have been loving it ever since."
Once the underdogs of the collegiate trap shooting world, Brown and her teammates have elevated the Eagles to the status of being nationally recognized.
"The dedication that it took and the drive that you see in that young woman," said Ozarks coach Caleb Hemphill. "Just to go out there and compete against someone from Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Martin Methodist, and Lindenwood. Seeing her crush clay target after clay target with one shot two shots and to run away with the trophy. It was a great feeling it was awesome to see that everything was paying off."