Gering’s Mount shoots way to scholarship at Midland
     2015-03-26      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Anthony Brathwaite/Gering Citizen - Gering senior Spencer Mount (seated, center) signs a National Letter of Intent to participate in Midland University’s shooting sports program during a March 9 ceremony in the Gering High School Media Center and Library. Joining Mount for his signing are: (seated, from left) brother Skyler Mount, mother Jana Mount, father Steven Mount, brother Andrew Mount, (back row, from left) shooting partners Max Closson, Becca Svoboda and Jessica Svoboda, Midland University Admissions Counselor Kyle Peacock, and Jennifer Svoboda and Troy Svoboda, coaches at the Mitchell Valley Trap Club. 
Gering senior Spencer Mount does not participate in high school athletics.
But that fact did not keep Mount from earning a college athletic scholarship.

On March 9, Mount signed a National Letter of Intent to participate in Midland University’s fledgling shotgun sports program.
Mount thus will join a program that is exclusive to any collegiate athletic department in Nebraska and is one of just a handful of scholarship shooting programs in the United States.

At Midland, where shotgun sports were added to the varsity program in 2013, student-athletes have a unique opportunity to train and compete under four-time Olympian and former U.S. National Shooting Sports Coach Bret Erickson.

Erickson, a Bennington native and a Midland alumnus was the 1990 world champion in double trap and a four-time world championship medalist. He was a 2001 World Clay Target Championships silver medalist in men’s trap, 1991 World Clay Target Championships silver medalist in men’s double trap and is a multiple World Cup and Pan American Games medalist.

“The neat thing about Spencer and some of the teens out west, he’s basically not your prototypical Nebraska Cornhusker high school shoot kid,” Erickson said. “He has shot some in the Scholastic Clay Target Program. They shoot more than just trap; they shoot trap, they shoot skeet and they shoot sporting clays as a general rule for all their events.

“This is a very trap-oriented state and a very trap-oriented region of the country, so when you have kids like Spencer who have shot sporting clays and shot skeet, their learning curve is a lot shorter.”

Mount, who said he has been hunting since about age 6, said he started shooting trap in the sixth grade in order to become a better hunter. “I got hooked on that and I like shooting competitively,” he added.

“Coach Erickson’s background helped a lot too, seeing what he could teach you,” said Mount, adding that he likes sporting clay the best. “It’s more like the hunting scenario.”

Mount is a member of the Mitchell Valley Trap Club under coach Troy Svoboda and said he just starting shooting skeet. “That’s something Coach Erickson will have to help me work on,” he added.
But even a start at shooting skeet is enough to give Mount an advantage entering the Midland program, Erickson said.

“He has just a little more-rounded background,” Erickson said of Mount. “In college, we shoot all the shotgun events: American trap and skeet, international trap and skeet, sporting clays and five stand.

“So it’s great that we have this crop of young shooters in our high school program here in Nebraska, and I have talked to every coach I can and told them, ‘There are opportunities for these kids at the college level, but they have to get out of their box and shoot more than just trap.

“I don’t expect them to be great at (the other events), but if they have shot them and are introduced to them – I can make them better no matter what – but their learning curve is just a lot quicker if they’ve had some background.”

Midland is in its second season of competing in shotgun sports, and the Warriors compete against NCAA Division I schools such as Kansas State University and Wichita State University. Those teams, however, are non-scholarship club programs.

Erickson said of the 73 colleges and universities that competed at their national meet last year, only three were scholarship programs. He said he thinks the number of varsity programs is getting close to double-digits.

“I have a lot of out-of-state kids,” Erickson said. With my reputation, there are a lot of really high-level kids around the country who seek me out, which makes recruiting pretty easy. “
Mount said he likes to hunt mostly pheasant, geese and deer, and he and his family went hog hunting in February in eastern Oklahoma, which he said was really fun.

Mount became introduced to Midland and the fledgling shooting sports program when his older brother, Skyler, visited the Fremont university two years ago and he went along.
“When he went on his college visit, I really liked the campus, and I went again this year,” Mount said. “That pretty much sealed the deal. (Erickson) showed me a lot more.”

Skyler Mount only attended Midland for a semester and now works for the state. He did not participate in Midland’s inaugural season of competition.
Spencer Mount plans to major in business at Midland, with plans after graduation to return home and operate a sporting goods store.
“Spencer has the background to really make a mark, even in his
freshman year,” Erickson said.

“This year, we have a 10-person varsity team that has traveled to most of the big matches. And out of those 10, six of them are freshmen. This is about who is the best, and I truly believe he has the ability to step up right off the bat as a freshman and make a mark. That would be great.”

The Warriors have two women on their first team and they are beating the guys about every week, Erickson said.

“I’m recruiting even better girls for next year, and I may have a squad of girls who might be able to beat my boys. I’m going to kick the boys in the butt a little bit. They can’t sit back and watch them, because when girls beat you, they never let you forget it.”
Erickson said a past Midland athletic director attended the Cornhusker high school shooting competition a few years back, and after seeing several thousand competitors decided to push for the first collegiate program.

Erickson, who was coaching the Olympic Team, consulted with Midland for nearly a year. He was hired in November 2012 to begin recruiting for the inaugural 2013-14 season.

“All I ask of the kids is come with an open mind and ready to learn,” Erickson said. “Don’t think you’re that good already, because nobody is that good.”

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