Competing at the Grand American Trapshooting Championships wasn’t exactly new this year for Nick Kubasch. The New Germany man had been to the national championships before, three years in a row from 2004 through 2006.
But Kubasch hadn’t been back to the event in six years, and the 2011 Minnesota state champion didn’t know exactly what to expect when he returned to compete against the nation’s best shooters last month in Sparta, Ill. Needless to say, he was pretty pleased with his third place finish in Class AAA.
“I was very excited,” said Kubasch, a member of the Watertown Rod and Gun Club. “It’s one of those things where you go down there, you hope to do well, and when you do more than you expect, it’s always fun.”
The Grand American Trapshoot is actually a week-long event with numerous different contests. Kubasch competed in several of them, even winning one and finishing third in another as well. Throughout the course of the week, he hit 648 of 650 targets.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” Kubasch said. “It was a pretty exceptional week.”
It was the most prestigious, event, however — the Beretta Singles Championship — in which Kubasch finished in third place in Class AAA. The event consists of 200 targets from 16 yards away, split into eight rounds of 25. Shooters know, however, that in order to have a shot to win the event in a field of more than 2,000 shooters, they have to be perfect and outlast numerous others in a series of shootoffs at the end.
“My goal was to get the 200 out of 200, make the shootoff and let the chips fall where they may,” Kubasch said.
Kubasch did hit all 200 targets in regulation, but so did 42 other shooters. Kubasch went on to hit all 75 targets over the first three 25-bird shootoffs as the field gradually began to be whittled down.
Eventually, though, Kubasch missed one target in the fourth shootoff.
Though Kubasch hit 299 out of 300 targets in all, he said there were still 12 shooters left when he went out. However, the top three take the top overall spots, and the remaining place winners are categorized according to their class. Kubasch ended up being the third-place finisher in Class AAA, which is the highest class, and is reserved for those who average at least 98 out of 100.
Despite the need for perfection, Kubasch said he didn’t really feel much pressure down the stretch. The pressure, he said, actually comes before the shootoffs.
“There’s actually more pressure and you feel more nervous during the last five shots of the 200 — the last shots of the qualifying round — than you do in the shootoff,” he said. “Once you’re in the shootoff, the pressure is off. Whatever happens, happens. It’s just fun to make it that far.”
Even so, Kubasch admitted that it was at least a little disappointing to finally miss a shot.
“It’s one of those cases where before you even shoot, you’re squeezing the trigger and you know you’re off,” he said. “You wish you could do it over again. It’s a little disappointing, but overall, you know you accomplished what you went there for. It feels good.”
Last year, Kubasch was the Minnesota state singles champion, the first time he accomplished the feat after coming close several times before. However, he said his recent third place finish at nationals was a much bigger deal.
“It’s basically the top five shooters from every state,” he said. “At Minnesota, it’s the top five to 10 you have to beat, and that’s it. Here you’re trying to outdo the top five to 10 shooters from every other state as well.”