At the start of December, the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championship in Clay Shooting was held at Orston Shooting Ground near Nottingham.
The event saw 250 shooters from 19 universities across the UK – including Faye Wills shooting as the only representative from Canterbury Christ Church. Competing to hit as many of the 100 clay pigeon targets as possible. This was Faye’s third BUCS event, and her second shooting for CCCU; in 2019, she finished just 3 targets away from the Women’s bronze medal, so going into this year’s event Faye definitely felt like she had a point to prove!
Faye tells us in her own words how it felt to compete in the competition…
I have learned the hard way that turning up to a ground one hasn’t shot at before on the day of competition is a terrible idea; aside from the possibility of getting lost and turning up late for the squad start time, there is always an added element of panic not knowing where to check in. With a 3 hour drive just to get there, I decided to travel up the day before, go to the ground, and shoot the pool layout – the winning shooter of the weekend on that particular layout would win a share of the cash prize – before going to my hotel.
This decision paid dividends. I put in a PB on the pool shoot, met some of the ground staff, and asked some important questions I needed to know prior to arriving for my competition round the next day. By the time I reached the hotel, I was feeling incredibly relaxed about what was to come – a huge change from previous years, where I was always super anxious.
The day of the competition went without a hitch. I ensured I had a fully nutritious breakfast (carbs, protein, caffeine!), and left with plenty of time to spare in case I got stuck in traffic. I shot the pool layout again – another PB! – and started the main event feeling the most relaxed I have ever felt before a major competition.
In spite of the wind and a short burst of rain, I was on form most of the day. A couple of silly misses, but only one stand really caught me out; a fast bouncing rabbit-style target and a close looper which I just tried to shoot far too quickly. I’d hoped to put in at least a 75 ex.100 at the event, enough to maybe secure the Women’s bronze, so imagine my delight when I discovered I’d shot 80 ex.100, and was leading the Women’s competition.
The next 3 hours were nail-biting to say the least. Whilst waiting for the rest of the squads to finish – and to see whether I’d be able to maintain the gold medal position – I shot a couple of other non-competition disciplines to distract myself. Once that was done, I spent the remaining 2 hours waiting and checking the scoreboards to see whether I was still at the top.
The overall title was out of my reach; my fellow competitive shooter Luke Russell had put in an amazing score of 95 ex.100. However, that didn’t distract from the elation, at around 16:40, that I had managed to stay in the Women’s gold medal position. Not only that, but I was 11 targets clear of the silver medal winner! Often, this sport is won or lost on single targets, so being that far ahead was a huge win. What was more, when the final results were released the following day, I found that I was the only woman in the top 20.
Overall, my performance – whilst not perfect – was far better than I had imagined, and all of the hard work and time I’ve put into pushing my scores higher is starting to pay off. I just have to go back next year to retain my title!