Oct 2013—Lauren Mueller
Illinois’ Lauren Mueller is the first woman to win the Grand American All-Around title. She matched 397 with All-American Richard Marshall Jr. and went to shootoff to earn it. She said, “There’s a lot of comments, like, ‘It’s good shooting whether you’re a female or not,’ but it’s inspiration to other ladies,” she said. “I’m just surprised I am the first lady because there are so many unbeliveable great lady shooters.”
During the shootoff the two were nailing their shots and matching hits one for one. Lauren said she was prepared to go another 40 shots. As the shootoff went 20 singles, 10 doubles, then going into the handicap, no one had missed. “It wasn’t over yet in my mind. I was ready to keep going. I was prepared to go hit another 40.”
When asked if she was nervous before the shootoff, she said, “I was about to start shaking. I was really nervous, but after the first two targets, which I barely broke, I shut it off and was just shooting. It was like shooting league at night.”
At the end of the shootoff, Ricky missed the last target. “It took a few seconds to process,” Lauren said. “My jaw dropped. I was in shock for a second, it took a little bit to sink in.” Then when it did, everyone erupted into cheers. “That’s when it started sinking in, all the cameras in my face, I was getting my hand shook and getting all the hugs.”
Lauren fired her first ATA targets in November 2003 at age 11. She blasted her first 200 when she was 14 years old at the Ohio State Shoot. She posted her first 100 in doubles when she was 13 at the 2006 Indiana State Shoot. She’s still going for the 100 in handicap, having posted a few 99s. She made it to the 27-yard line at age 15.
Lauren is a senior at Lindenwood University (St. Charles, Mo.). Their shooting team has earned 10 consecutive ACUI championships, and she has been on the last three teams and going into her fourth. Lauren and ATA’er Zach Nannini are co-captains of the team, and Lauren is the ladies’ team captain.
The team practices on Mondays and Wednesdays, shooting 100 targets in the fall, and in the spring they can get in 150. They get a case of shells for weekend practice—all AAs.
Lauren changed her major from biology to business and will extend her studies an extra semester, graduating in December 2014. She loves the business courses and hopes to work in the shooting industry for Federal or Remington.
The Lindenwood shooting team will be going to ATA tournaments, including the Missouri Fall Handicap and Spring Grand in Tucson. And they are set to go to the ACUI Championships in SanAntonio, Texas.
T&F: When you started shooting in 2004, what were your goals?
LM: I grew up around it with my grandpa—Larry Mohr. He built Brittany Shooting Park in Bunker Hill, Ill. I just thought it was fun to go and shoot a gun. After I started shooting, the Illinois ATA Delegate Jim Matteson told me about the All-American team. I started getting interested in that, and I was determined to make the team. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I managed to stay on there for six of the last seven years. That was my goal, to stay on the All-American team.
T&F: What gun do you shoot, and what shells?
LM: I shoot a Kolar. I got it for my 17th birthday, so I’ve had it for four years now. I met Bill Martin for the first time at the Central Zone Shoot at Brittany a week before the Grand, and he let me shoot his Kolar. I broke a 19, nothing impressive, but I really liked the gun. I told him I liked it, and if it was fitted, that would really be a great gun to shoot. A week later on my birthday, Aug. 11, I was unloading my empties out of my bag outside the motorhome. I looked over at the table, and I saw a Kolar case sitting on it. I asked my dad, what is this? My birthday present? He said, “I have no idea how that got there.” As it turned out Bill said he knocked on my camper a couple of times, and I must have been out shooting. When nobody answered the door, he just left it outside the camper. And his brother Pete got me the Wenig stock. I really appreciate it. I want them to know I am so super excited about it, and I am really appreciative.
I went to Kolar, and Jeff Mainland fitted the gun, and they took great care of me. I had it all done in one day.
All the guys on my squad shoot Federal, so I started shooting them. There is less kick, and they are just an all-around better shell. I had just decided to try them one day last summer and loved them.
Members of my squad are Paul Vonburg, Mike Jordan, Frank Payne and John Kravanek. During the Grand Marvin Beumer shoots with us, and Mike shoots with Remington. All are from Illinois, except Marvin is from Missouri.
T&F: Did you take any clinics? How did you learn to shoot?
LM: I learned from watching and talking with other shooters, but I mainly learned from my grandfather. He got me started. Got me where I am today. Everybody on my squad has helped me along the way too.
I’ve been shooting with the squad for four plus years. When they asked me to be on the squad, I felt like I was shooting with the big dogs. Oh my gosh, I thought, I can’t mess up. Now if we shoot with other people, it’s just not the same. We all watch each other’s targets, we all watch each other’s back. If we’re doing something wrong, we tell each other. It’s great.
T&F: What do you like about shooting?
LM: It’s great because it’s a stress reliever for one thing. If you’re having a bad day, you just go out and blow some targets, and it makes you feel better. I’m a really competitive person, so I like being at school because there are so many good shots. I like going to all the big ATA shoots, hearing stories, hanging out and meeting a lot of people. The whole scene, really. I really am competitive.
T&F: What is your most memorable win?
LM: Definitely this Grand. I probably will never forget this Grand. I had a great two weeks. It just kind of clicked. It was one of those things where everything just came together at the right time.
T&F: Who are shooters you admire?
LM: Definitely Leo. He was No. 1. He was super and a great guy, and he would help anyone. I definitely looked up to him. He will be missed.
And Rick Marshall. He’s a great guy. He would help anybody out. Everybody likes him. Mike Jordan is one of the best. Also John Kravenek, but I don’t know if I’d want to admit that to him cause we give each other a bunch of crap. He’s one of those people who gets you toughened up so when other people give you crap, it doesn’t hurt as much. So we have little competitions all the time, like he’ll break a 100 in doubles and he’ll rub it all in on me. We like to give each other a lot a crap. I look up to him a lot, too.
T&F: What are your future goals?
LM: To make All-American ladies’ captain. I hope to get that. Maybe win another few rings if I can. Hopefully I’ll get a collection, not just have one. Those are my goals. To continue to have shoots like I did at the Grand. Keep my head in it, stick with it, and hopefully win some more.
T&F: What would you say to aspiring young shooters, maybe even to older shooters?
LM: I would say we all have bad days, but you definitely can’t let that get in your head. You just have to keep looking toward breaking the next target and keep practicing and striving for your goals. Set your goals high, but attainable. Keep looking at your goals and keep building on from there.
T&F: Your family has been a big support to you, haven’t they?
LM: My grandpa Larry Mohr has been a big influence. I can give most of my credit to him because he gives me shells and practice. He’s the one that got me into shooting. He’s the one that coached me when I first got started, and he has been a really good shot. He has told me a lot of stories and introduced me to a lot of people.
My dad Donny has been great, and my mom (Michelle) is my biggest supporter. She has taken me everywhere I’ve ever gone. She has always supported me for everything. I’ve seen parents get down hard on their kids if they have a bad shooting day, like if they break an 80 one day or something. My mom just told me to wipe it off; there’s always another event. She’s super supportive.
T&F: Where’s your favorite place to shoot?
LM: Let me think: Brittany Shooting Park, most definitely!
By Terry Heeg, editor, Trap & Field
Mike Jordan, 2012 Trapshooting Hall of Fame honoree, had this to say about Lauren:
Winning the All-Around is a lifetime achievement. Few of us will do that. Lauren started shooting as a youngster and worked her way up. She worked hard and loves to shoot. The sport is giving her a good education and probably a great advocation and vocation. She is a nice young lady, and I enjoy being around her. She is grounded and can stay calm. She is from a good Midwestern family. Her grandpa Larry Mohr started the Brittany Shooting Park. Her fantastic perfomance as this year’s Grand shows her progression.
Before he started competing in preliminary week at this year’s Grand American, Florida’s 15-year old Andrew Loitz had already captured several memorable moments and three stunning accomplishments from the AIM Grand Championships. He had shot his first-ever 100 straight in the 200 singles race, put up a very respectable 95 from the 25-yard line, and had outright won the doubles with a lone 99. Andrew also earned runnerup in the AIM all-around, losing by just one bird to his new Aussie friend Mitch Iles.
Andrew kept up his rock star performance at the Grand, starting with another flawless score that brought him his very first Grand American trophy as sub-junior winner of the Sterling Cut Glass Singles. In the Gipson-Ricketts Handicap he put up a 97, his best ’caps score to date, which placed him second in his category and punched him back a yard to 26. He then had his first-ever 100 straight in doubles in the Caesar Guerini event and took the sub-junior award, only to out-do himself the following week with another perfect century in the Doubles Championship, which earned him the sub-junior crown. By the end of the two weeks, Andrew had amassed a total of nine wins, including top sub-junior honors in the All Around with 390. “The targets set at the Grand were probably the best I have ever shot,” he declared.
Andrew shot his Beretta 682 Sporting for singles and doubles during both tournaments, and while he normally uses Rio ammo, he shot Federal shells (plastic for singles, papers for doubles) while competing in Sparta. He used his Ljutic with Winchester Super Handicap 7. 5 loads for his entire handicap shooting. When Andrew wasn’t busy collecting his trophies, he spent a great deal of time enjoying the vendor’s buildings, in particular, the Perazzi building. “I’m seriously eyeing an MX 2000,” he said.
Andrew doesn’t consider himself a “natural” at trapshooting, but his outstanding ATA record, coupled with his notable DNA, indicates otherwise. Being the grandson of the late Illinois champion Robert Loitz and the son of Joseph Loitz, Florida Trapshooters Association’s current president and frequent trophy winner, Andrew has undoubtedly inherited some exceptional trapshooting genes. He also recently inherited his grandfather’s fixed, full-choked Ljutic, which he shot magnificently throughout the 2013 shooting year. His final win of the season, a 98 in the Kolar Handicap Championship at the Cardinal Classic, gained him the coveted 27-yard status. Not bad for a 15-year old with only four years of ATA shooting!
But Andrew’s first experience in trap was neither successful nor fun. His dad took him to his club, Markham Park T&S, located near their home in Coral Springs, for its hugely popular Monday night youth program. His father brought him to the line with an 870 pump, and Andrew recalled, “I was only 10 years old, really little, and it really hurt. I think I cried!” He instantly gave up but returned a year later, somewhat bigger and more determined, and tried it again. By his third visit in as many weeks, he was hooked.
He described how trapshooting opened up a whole new world of possibilities to him. Perthes Disease, a condition in children characterized by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip, had stunted the growth in Andrew’s left leg, leaving it two inches shorter than his right, which made it impossible for him to participate in sports that required running. But trapshooting was possible, and he loved it! “I wasn’t one of those ‘jump-start’ shooters,” he commented. “I really had to work at it, and I did. I started practicing every Monday night while my dad was coaching new shooters on another field. He’d monitor my progress, but I never really had him stand behind me, unless I had a problem. I often had a field alone, and one of the range officers, Tony, would pull for me occasionally. He was great at being able to tell me if I was doing something wrong.”
Andrew practiced at most twice a week and concentrated very seriously on his handicap. His training focus finally paid off handsomely by 2011, the year that 13-year old Andrew reached the 24-yard line and achieved his first 50 straight in doubles when squadded with his grandfather at the Illinois State Shoot. “I ended up with a 97 in the Doubles Championship and took home the non-resident runnerup high-over-all trophy. My granddad was ecstatic!” Andrew remembered. As he began tasting real success, Andrew started paying more attention to his home-state competitors. It turned out they were not only some of the ATA’s top young shooters, they were also his friends, including Matthew Vega, Matthew McBride, Justin King, Zach Taylor and Tate Turner.
Andrew admits that his friends’ victories continually motivate him to improve. “I always want to come out of a tournament winning at least one thing,” he expressed. As for his doubles, his favorite event, he’s got a rather unique incentive: his father’s successes. “I always wanted to be better than him in doubles. Dad was a great, great doubles shooter when he was younger, and with his coaching I’ve now surpassed what he did back then.” (Note: Dad’s doubles skills are still quite admirable; his 2013 average was .9202. Andrew’s was .9483).
Andrew believes that the trapshooters of his dad’s generation and beyond have been a tremendous source for his accelerated personal growth off the trapfield. “Being friends with the adults at Markham T&S, I matured a lot faster. Trapshooters are probably the nicest people on the face of the earth!” he exclaimed. Andrew’s quite proud to be part of that group and is paying it forward now by helping other kids at his club shoot better. “It takes a special amount of skill to teach a beginner. My dad really has that. I think I’m better at refining existing shooters,” he explained.
While father and son share a passion for developing other shooters, Andrew also credits his dad for passing down his great sense of humor, which has helped him diffuse some bad shooting moments. “Sometimes when I’ve shot 99s (in singles), after missing that one target I’d find myself laughing as I put the gun down,” he stated. Andrew figures he’s probably shot more than 60 of these so far in his ATA career. “At the Silver Dollar, as well as some other clubs in Florida, there is a designation for shooting a 99—it’s called ‘Shooting a Loitz!’ ” he said. Now that Andrew has blasted two perfect centuries in both singles and doubles, it’s time to rename that jinx!
Andrew feels he has a lot more focus on and confidence in his shooting than his studies, except for math and creative writing, his two favorite subjects. The 10th grader is also more introverted in his academic life than in his shooting life. “When I’m shooting, I’m a completely different person. I think I’m a lot funnier and more outgoing—and I have more control of everything.” To help maintain this control, he has read a few mental training books. His current favorite is “Zen Bow, Zen Arrow,” written by an acclaimed Japanese archery master.
However, perhaps the greatest enlightenment that Andrew has received came from his dad, who told him not to focus on breaking a hundred, but to focus solely on powdering the target. “He said to me, ‘see it completely explode. Just to see a piece break off is not that amazing.’ ” That advice makes Andrew look hard at every single bird and prevents his mind from wandering. His preference to be lead-off for singles and handicap also supports his mental game. Andrew believes that having the procedural responsibility for his squad takes his mind off his shooting. Only in doubles does he prefer to start on Post 2, as it allows him to see the first bird’s exit point on each station before it’s his turn to powder it!
Now that Andrew’s got the doubles leg of his Grand Slam, his “99 curse” has been lifted, and he’s positioned at the back fence, poised to complete his triple crown. He’s also demonstrated the confidence and talent to win the Grand Doubles Championship, a goal that’s supreme on his wish list. With any luck, he’ll do it next year in Sparta, when he’s 16 years old. But Andrew isn’t counting on luck. “Anyone can have a good day. Luck is a factor, sometimes. But usually if you run just on luck, you will fall,” he remarked. Andrew plans to heed the wise counsel he offers other young shooters who aspire to win like him: “Make every target count, even in practice. If you miss, make that count. Understand why you missed it and compensate for it. Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses—and turn your weaknesses into your strengths.”
By Barbara Sheldon for Trap & Field
TRAP & FIELD Magazine, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis IN 46202
((C) Copyright 10/03/2013, Trap & Field Magazine/Division of Servaas, Inc..