BEN GOMMEL WAS A JUNIOR AT NORTH RIDGEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL when he joined his school’s team competing in the Ohio State High School Clay Target League. Though he didn’t have much experience with a shotgun prior to joining, his experience was like many in the League. “I got hooked on it and I loved it,” he says. “I’ve been doing it ever since.” After graduating from high school in 2018, Gommel was eager to stay active in the sport. The problem was, his college, the University of Akron, didn’t offer a team. So, during his freshman year, Gommel set out to change that. He proposed the idea to the university’s club sports manager, sought the support and guidance of the college’s rifle team coach, drafted a constitution, and went through several other steps to create a registered student organization and ultimately a new club sport. The team’s first members were also past high school League participants.

“I have a couple of friends from my high school trap team that go to Akron, so I knew that they were willing to join,” Gommel says. “And with the interest in the rifle team on campus, I knew there would be others who would be interested in trap.” The team’s seven members competed in their first USA College Clay Target League season in 2019, finishing second overall. Gommel, now the team’s president and head coach, says he has used lessons learned from his past coaches to help guide the team. The university’s rifle team coach will also stop out occasionally to offer support and help. The team shoots weekly at the Sportsmen’s Gun and Reel Club in Lorain, just under an hour away from campus. The gun club’s members have also helped coach the team.

Gommel has been marketing the team on campus, hanging posters and attending recruiting events. His goal is to reach 15 members next year, and he hopes the team becomes popular enough that it will continue once he graduates. “It creates another opportunity for students to be involved and lead on campus,” he says. “Hopefully it will last a long time and other students will be able to help each other in the discipline and carry it on for years to come.” The clay target club is one of many at the University of Akron, a college known for its STEM programs including engineering, technology, and advanced materials. It also has a reputation for music and business programs.

Outside of trap, Gommel plays the trumpet in the marching band and the basketball team pep band, is a member of a fraternity, and part of a cyber security team. Even if you’re a busy student, you can find time to spend at the range, he says. For high school clay target athletes looking to continue the sport at the next level, he proves that if there isn’t an opportunity already, you can create one. “Go for it,” he says. “Depending on the university it might be a little harder to get started, but it’s very rewarding and a lot of fun. You get to meet new people and shooting is always a good time.”