OSKALOOSA — When Emma Van Donselaar gives it her best shot, good things happen.
Van Donselaar found herself in elite company in June after placing fourth in the 2019 Shotgun Junior National Championship hosted by USA Shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Van Donselaar, a 20 year-old junior at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska, who grew up only two miles west of Oskaloosa, earned a spot on the Team USA Junior Olympic squad and a USA Shooting Vest. The vest is earned for only the highest qualifying marks in the most prestigious Junior Olympic competitions.
She’s now one of the best international female skeet shooters in the country.
In a few weeks she plans to compete at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials (Part 1) in Kerrville, Texas, then it’s on to other collegiate shoots nearly each weekend in the Midwest. The fall season ends at the beginning of November, then the next season re-starts in the middle of January.
“I’ll compete in San Antonio, Texas twice,” Van Donsellar said, “then in the international qualifying events, then in Texas again for collegiate nationals.”
Van Donselaar’s competitive shooting journey began when her mother introduced her to the sport.
“In my eighth grade year my mom came home with a flyer about competition shooting and said ‘this might be a great activity for you to get involved in to do something different and make new friends in high school.’”
She started off shooting for Pella Christian High School, then for Simpson College in Indianola as a college freshman and then the last two years at Concordia College.
She has now been shooting shotguns for seven years, where she has earned a state championship and competed in international skeet competitions, her favorite, for nearly two years.
There are fundamental differences between American skeet and International Skeet. In American Skeet the targets are shot in a different order and are slower than in International Skeet. There is also no delay in American Skeet after the shooter has called for targets, and the shooter may do this with the gun pre-mounted on the shoulder.
In Olympic skeet, there is a random delay of between 0 and 3 seconds after the shooter has called for the target, and the shooter must hold his gun so that the buttstock is at mid-torso level until the target appears.
Van Donsellar said she practices International Skeet shooting an average of three days per week and gets in about eight hours of shooting practice, not including travel. She has practice facilities available in Nebraska (Brainard and Grand Island) and in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Olympic Training Center. She can also practice on a range her father built for her when she travels back home to Iowa.
It’s the uniqueness of the sport that Van Donselaar appreciates the most.
“It’s different than every other sport and I like how I see myself developing into a great shooter. It all comes naturally now, and it’s always a good feeling when I’m shooting my gun,” she said.
She still has some big goals in mind, including competing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. To get there, she’s planning to earn a spot on a higher ranking national team. She will age out of the Junior category in January, so she’ll automatically be moved up into the open category against much tougher shooting competition.
“My goal is to make an open national team and travel with them to get more experience,” she said, “so that would be awesome.”
Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to a very successful season with her team’s fall collegiate shooting events. You can get more information at www.cune.edu/athletics/teams/trap-skeet.
“I love my gun,” she said, “and the college experience is fun because I can balance my shooting goals and academic goals.”