Milton grad on target
Ben Waier, a 2010 Milton High School graduate, gives Southeastern Illinois College’s clay target shooting team his best shot.
The 19-year-old Waier and his Falcons teammates won the Division 1 team championship at the 43rd annual Association of College Unions International Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships last month in San Antonio.
SIC was runner-up to eight-time overall national champion Lindenwood University of Charles, Mo. The Lions scored 106 team points to the Falcons’ 62 in the five-day competition.
The competition is divided according to the number of shooters on a team. Division 1 is 15 members. Division 2 is 12-14, and Division 3 is for first-year teams.
The shooters compete in American and international skeet and trap, five stand trap, and sporting clays.
Waier finished third individually in international skeet and 35th overall in his first national competition. SIC won the Division 1 title in only its fourth year in team shotgun shooting competition.
Waier’s team stood up to Harvard, West Point, Texas A&M, Missouri and other Division 1 schools as the only junior college in the 49-team field.
SIC has 900 students on its main campus in Harrisburg, Ill., and 1,200 students overall.
Coach Bruce Hering, a 30-year instructor at SIC, compares his team’s shooting skills to the skill sets of NCAA Division I football players.
“They are the same as a high-end major-college football team,” Hering said. “They come here with a lot of skills.’’
Waier thought football was his No. 1 sport until a knee injury when he was 12 years old forced him to do some rethinking.
“I messed up my knee, so I started shooting,” said Waier, who received coaching from his father, Bryan. “My dad would shoot with me, and I learned.’’
Ben showed lots of promise at the range.
“A friend of mine said, ‘The kid has natural talent. Let’s work with him,’ and that winter we started shooting,” said Bryan. “By the time Ben was 14, he was an All-American.’’
At 16, Ben was a two-time All-American in sporting clays and a master class shooter, one of three in Wisconsin at the time.
“Ben had natural talent,” Bryan said. “Big-tournament pressure didn’t bother him, and he kept on winning.’’
Ben can shoot straight, and he can shoot fast and where it matters most in international skeet, which is an Olympic discipline.
“International means your gun is down (before you shoot),” Bryan said. “The targets are faster, and not too many people want to play this game because it’s a harder game to play, and not too many want to be humiliated.’’
Since international skeet is an Olympic sport, Ben is focused on gaining a U.S. Olympic team tryout invitation. Invitations are not easy to receive.
“It takes a lot of money to get into the Olympic stuff,” Ben said. “There are two qualifiers, and it attracts the top shooters.’’
The Olympic team is small and openings are few.
“You shoot with Olympic hopefuls, and you know how hard it is, but you go hoping you can win the big one,” Bryan said. “You’ve got to win. It’s the only way you are going to get recognized.’’
Ben is aiming high and climbing the ladder of success.
“Ben has the maturity,” said Hering. “Things change meet to meet. It’s kind of a thought process. He just has to work on consistency.’’
Last updated: 5:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012