By (Joe Klingbeil)

It didn’t take Reid Duval very long to find out where he belonged at The University of Alabama.

The Birmingham native wasn’t going far from home when he packed his bags for Tuscaloosa in 2013, but he quickly found himself searching for a place to fit in once he arrived on campus.

During his search for a fraternity as a freshman, Duval, who is now a senior, heard about a group of friends attempting to start up a clay shooting team at Get On Board Day.

It was then that Duval, who was taught the sport of clay shooting by his grandfather at the age of 13, found what he was looking for.

“I heard something about [the clay shooting team], and they had this impromptu meeting at Newk’s,” Duval said. “I ending up knowing the guys that were starting it really well, so I ended up helping them out.”

With the help of Duval, the Clay Shooting Team was founded by alumni Alex Masters and Cody LaRocque in the fall of 2013 and has quickly formed into a tight-knit group.

Even though the team now holds 35 to 40 dedicated male and female members, it sported less than 15 in its first semester. They quickly found out that starting a club sport and competing are no easy tasks.

“First year everything was on our own dime,” said Duval, who at the time was secretary of the club. “And as a group of 13-14 people, we spent $46,000. That was paying for practice, gas traveling back and forth to Birmingham for practice and entering competitions. It was a ridiculous amount of money for less than 20 people.”

But now with the help of club dues and donations, the only fees the team members will pay is transportation, gas and hotels during regional competitions, and for practice at Southern Skeet and Trap in Birmingham, where each team member spends about $20 a week on ammunition.

“The cost has gone down quit a bit,” Duval said.

Thanks to those donations, every year the team enters regional competitions that are hosted by the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). The team will send about 20-25 shooters to each ACUI event, which are specifically set up for group competition. Schools and club teams from across the Southeast compete in the ACUI Regionals, which feature three shooting events: skeet shooting, trap and sporting clays.

Skeet shooting involves 25 targets a round, which are shot from a “high” and “low house,” where the shooter will attempt to hit the targets from different angles.

In trap shooting, targets are launched from a station known as a trap house, which is lined up alongside five other houses, as the shooter attempts to hit each target.

In sporting clays, otherwise known as “golf with a shotgun,” there are 12 to 15 different stations along the course where the shooters will arrive, usually by a golf cart, and attempt to hit targets launched from each station.

The competitions are two-day events that begin at 8 a.m. and usually don’t wind down until 4 in the evening.

Last month, the Clay Shooting Team competed at Regionals in Savannah, Georgia, where they finished fourth out of 11 groups, and where junior Avery Dungie took home gold in the trap event.

“At first when I joined the team I was like, ‘It’s just something to do,’ but it’s become the world to me,” Dungie said. “Not only has it become something that I love and is unique and different, it’s also given me the most wonderful group of family and friends.”

As is the case for most clubs around campus, as the number of members increase, so do the relationships. The clay shooting club team continues to prepare for nationals later this month in San Antonio, Texas, Duval is reminded just how far this team has come.

“In my college experience, it’s probably the best thing that could have happened,” Duval said. “It’s like a family. This came along, and the people that I’ve met, these people are lifelong friends.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports