For as long as Caisey Duran and Alec Trennepohl can remember, guns, ammunition and target shooting have been a part of their lives.
By the time that they could walk, both college students had been schooled in the importance of gun safety and the Second Amendment, and by the time they hit grade school, Duran and Trennepohl were already experienced shooters.
After dabbling in competitive shooting during their grade school years, the two Montezuma County residents turned their attention to more traditional athletic endeavors, and during their teenage years, they became standout athletes at Montezuma-Cortez High School.
For Duran, athletic success came in the form of qualifying for state competitions in swimming and cross country, and for Trennepohl, athletic success came on the baseball diamond, where he excelled at the plate and in the field.
After graduating from Lighthouse Christian Academy in 2018, Duran and Trennepohl chose to attend college at Liberty University, a private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, that has become known for its quality education and commitment to Christian values.
Upon arriving at Liberty, neither Duran nor Trennepohl had plans to continue their athletic careers given the difficulty of walking on to Division I athletic programs and their commitment to their studies.
Their competitive desires did not abate with their arrival at school, however, and after several weeks on Liberty’s 7,000-acre campus, Duran and Trennepohl began talking about pursuing some sort of athletic endeavor.
One night, the two high school and college classmates found themselves talking about guns, and soon after, Duran brought up the possibility of trying out for Liberty’s rifle team.
“I looked into shooting because I got anemic (in high school) and I thought that shooting would be a good option for me because I couldn’t run or swim,” Duran said. “Shooting was something that I grew up doing, and I thought that (joining the shooting team) was meant to be.”
While Trennepohl was initially reluctant to try out for a college shooting team, given that he had not shot competitively in more than a decade, he eventually relented in the face of Duran’s encouragement and decided to put his target shooting skills to the test.
After participating in several practice sessions and quickly retraining their eyes and their bodies, Duran and Trennepohl took part in the Liberty rifle team’s tryout and qualified for the 14-person team.
“Making the team was a bit of a surprise since I hadn’t done any competitive shooting since NRA shooting when I was really young and I didn’t like it,” Trennepohl said. “I grew up around guns, and I always loved them though, so making the team was a thrill.”
Throughout the remainder of the fall and into the winter, Duran, Trennepohl and their teammates trained at an indoor shooting range and honed their skills. The team also worked hard to secure necessary equipment, including .22 caliber small-bore rifles, air rifles and scopes.
On Feb. 9, the team traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, to compete in the Intercollegiate College Shooting Athletics Sectional Competition, which took place at Rivana Rifle and Pistol Club.
Duran finished second on the Liberty team with 450 total points in the small-bore rifle event, which qualified her for the NRA National Intercollege Club Rifle Championships.
Duran and Trennepohl also qualified for the championships in the air rifle event with scores of 523 and 529, respectively, and Liberty qualified for the championships as a team in the air rifle event.
“I hadn’t shot an air rifle before coming to Liberty, so qualifying for (the championships) was a bit of a surprise,” Duran said. “I won three different prone (shooting) competitions prior to high school, and our Cortez team placed first in three different competitions, but sectionals was (a much bigger event).
Approximately six weeks after their performance at sectionals, Duran and Trennepohl traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, for the championships and helped their team place eighth nationally in the air rifle competition. Trennepohl finished with a score of 501, and Duran finished with a 494.
“A lot of people don’t classify shooting as a sport, but it’s kind of like any other sport, it’s very mental,” Duran said. “If you have a bad shot, you start to panic and your heart rate goes up. You have to make it mechanical so it doesn’t have to be mental.”
“I really enjoy the discipline that (shooting) teaches you,” Trennepohl added. “It’s mental discipline and physical discipline. If you can feel how fast your heart is beating, it’s not a good thing.”
With the first year of their college shooting careers now in the books, Duran and Trennepohl both indicated that they are eager to return next season and improve on their individual and team results.
“For our club, our goal is to have the team place top-three or even top-five (nationally),” Duran said. “Individually, I want to be in the top 10.”
“My goal is getting to the level where some of the elite shooters are,” Trennepohl said. “I know that it takes a lot of time and a lot of those kids have been shooting their entire lives. Seeing the progress that I’ve already started to make, I feel like I could get to that level.”
Given their familiarity with guns and their rapid improvement at the college level, it seems quite likely that Duran and Trennepohl will accomplish their goals at Liberty and continue to serve Montezuma County proud.