North Summit student takes third at nationals
Brierley used a tiebreaker to secure spot in trap shooting
July 21, 2017
Waylon Brierley, a soon-to-be senior at North Summit High School, wasn't completely sold on trap shooting at first.
The 17-year-old always enjoyed shooting and grew up in Henefer as an avid hunter, but the idea of competition never really ran through his mind. As he entered high school, though, a friend suggested Brierley give rodeo — specifically trap shooting — a shot, so he did.
"I joined and wasn’t sure about the competition and competing," Brierley said. "I had a rough start and all I wanted was to win a belt buckle."
Though he needed a little convincing, Brierley hasn't turned back. He struggled out of the gate in a competition setting, just as anyone new to the sport would, but after two and half years of working on his craft, Brierley earned his first belt buckle (buckles are awarded as trophies).
Brierley has come leaps and bounds since he first started. Competing in the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming, on Thursday morning, Brierley — who was the reserve champion from the Utah High School Rodeo Association's Finals — had a breakthrough performance, finishing in third place overall in the trap draw discipline.
"I never thought I would do so well at nationals," Brierley said. "I figured I would be average with such tight competition from around the world. I was hoping to make the top 20."
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After the first four rounds of competition, Brierley found himself in a three-way tie for third place, which resulted in a tiebreaker between him, Riley Smith of Arkansas and fellow Utah teammate Austin Earnshaw. Each contestant shot at 10 targets from the 20-yard line. Brierley hit all of his marks to secure third place.
With the finish, he'll earn another belt buckle — the first National one of his career — as well as a scholarship.
"Numerous buckles and wins later, here I am third at nationals," an excited Brierley exclaimed.
Despite being the reserve Utah champion, Brierley finished as the top trap shooter from the Beehive State, competing against competitors from 42 states, four provinces in Canada, and even Australia.
When arriving to the event, Brierley would be lying if he said he wasn't nervous.
"When we pulled into the gun range parking lot at Nationals and I saw all the people, that was my surreal moment," Brierley said.
But like they did when he first started the sport, his nerves settled. When asked if he had any superstitions that he felt helped him achieve the high placing, Brierley said his good luck charm isn't visible to the audience.
"My shooting ritual consists of a hot-pink pair of American Eagle boxers," he said. "I wear them to every shooting competition. And yes, in between rodeos, I do throw them in the washer."
Brierley has put in the work — rodeoing every weekend and putting in the hours at the gun club, he said — so it's no surprise to those who are close to him that he's improved so much in just a few years.
It's a sport that he somewhat picked up on a whim, but now, Brierley couldn't imagine his life without it, he said. He encourages those who may be on the fence about joining the rodeo to just do it.
"If anyone has any interest in shooting and wants to try it, I'd encourage them to go for it," Brierley said. "It’s a great experience. It’s fun. You can gain great friends and there is so much opportunity for scholarships and to go further with the help of the Utah High School Rodeo Association, even after high school."
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