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A talented shooter, Katie Welker is taking her competitive passion to college

Welker led the South Dakota High School Clay Target League with a regular season average of 24.7 in trap, before shooting a 93 in skeet and a 99 in trap at the state tournament this past June.

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Winner/Colome's Katie Welker aims at a target as she practices at the Mitchell Trap Club on Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Branden Hull / Mitchell Republic
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HAMILL, S.D. — Growing up in rural South Dakota, Katie Welker grew up shooting targets as early as six years old.

Her dedication to the sport not only awarded her top-five finishes in both skeet and trap shooting at the South Dakota High School Clay Target League state meet this past June, but has also led to a full-ride scholarship to Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska.

In her senior year at Colome High School, Welker was the regular-season average leader in trap shooting in the South Dakota High School Clay Target League. She averaged a 24.7 in trap, while also averaging 23.1 in skeet, which was just 0.6 off the best average in the state.

Welker finished fourth place in skeet and second in trap at the state tournament held in Aberdeen, but now with her focus strictly on the next level, she couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.

“With starting college, I’m just excited to meet all my teammates and be able to become friends with them,” Welker said. “That’s mostly who my friend group will be, just people I have stuff in common with so it's that and also traveling to all the different shoots. Especially if I make it to nationals because they will be held in Las Vegas and San Antonio, Texas, so I’m really looking forward to everything that’s to come.”

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Winner/Colome's Katie Welker practices trap shooting at the Mitchell Trap Club on Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Branden Hull / Mitchell Republic

What propelled Welker to stay as focused and dedicated to the sport of shooting has been her family. Her father, Dewayne, introduced her to target shooting with a .22 rifle at a young age. She shot targets for fun, before actually getting serious about trapshooting at the age of nine.

As she grew and her aim continued to get better, she began having friendly competition with her three older brothers. She said the sport of shooting is a mental game and being challenged by her older brothers at a young age drove her to loving the sport and being competitive.

“My Dad pushed me into it but all my brothers shot as well,” Welker said. “We turned it into a competition between the four of us because they had been shooting for many more years than me, but eventually I passed them and they all know I’m a better shot than they are now.”

Outside of the friendly wagers between herself and her brothers where the loser has to buy everyone ice cream, the traveling aspect of the sport is something Welker enjoys as well. Welker's mom, Laura, travels with her to all her shooting events and since she’s graduated, she’s competed in three separate states over the summer and plans to do much more of that at the collegiate level.

“I love to travel, so getting to shoot in all different places is something I really enjoy,” Welker said. “When you travel, you get to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends. That’s one thing that’s kept me going and that I really enjoy.”

On average, Welker has spent two nights a week in Winner shooting nearly 100 rounds per practice. With Winner being the closest range to her hometown, Welker was able to practice trap shooting as much as she’d like.

She wasn’t sure what direction the sport would take her until a mentor at Colome High School mentioned to Welker that he heard of some colleges that had shooting programs. Welker received this information and her focus ever since was to eventually compete in the sport she loves in college.

When Welker was looking to prioritize schools, she looked at places where she would have the chance to home on weekends along with the ability to travel and shoot all throughout the week, made Concordia the perfect decision.

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“The reason I chose Concordia is because they have an actual varsity team,” Welker said. “There’s several schools that have actual trap clubs, but with those clubs, you really only shoot 1-2 nights a week at your home range. With the varsity team, we’ll be traveling to different shoots across the state and even national competitions in Texas and Nevada.”

Welker happily accepted an athletic and academic scholarship from Concordia, which ensured her that not only tuition funds would be covered, but ammunition, hotel feels, travel and food would be covered as well. With Welker growing up in Hamill, the closest range for her to get the opportunity to practice skeet shooting was either in Mitchell or Pierre, both more than 100 miles away.

Attending Concordia, Welker will be able to practice and compete in trapshooting, doubles trap, American skeet and doubles skeet. The Bulldogs were fifth in the country in last year's national competition, including winning national titles in doubles American skeet and International skeet divisions.

“I heard so many good things about Concordia from the professors being great and everything else, so I think it’s just a perfect fit for me,” Welker said.

Welker and the rest of the Concordia shooting team will have its first competition in an intercollegiate shoot in Hays, Kansas on Sept. 10.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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