By Emily Carey ’19
Maddy Bernau has her sights set on the next Olympic Games.
And when Bernau takes aim, she usually hits it.
Ask her competitors in Italy, where she just took first place in international trap this May.
Since coming to Simpson from Waterford, Wis., the 20-year-old has found a tremendous amount of success, but her love of shooting began long before that.
It started when she was just nine-years-old, when Bernau picked up her first shotgun.
“My dad is big into hunting,” Bernau said. “He wanted to get me started in hunting, so I started learning how to shoot with a shotgun at paper targets.”
Two years later, she found a 4-H program with trap shooting and decided to give it a chance.
“My dad had done trap shooting before, so he thought I should try it,” she said.
But it wasn’t until eighth grade when Bernau realized she could really excel in shooting.
“I started tampering with skeet and sporting clays, along with other clay target discliplines,” she said.
A few years later, she discovered her discipline of choice during her sophomore year of high school: international trap.
“In eighth grade, I felt I had some talent for shooting, but I didn’t know how far I could take it,” Bernau said. “When I found out it was an international sport and I could actually travel the world competing in it, I thought, ‘I would really like to see how far I can go with this sport.’”
Flash forward four years and now she’s winning big both nationally and internationally in trap shooting while representing Team USA.
Bernau made her first national team in the summer of 2017, when she finished first at the SCTP (Scholastic Clay Target Program) International National Championships in Colorado Springs.
This program gave her opportunities to travel to more training camps throughout the nation.
While competing with the Simpson College Shooting Sports Club during the 2017 school year, she became a national champion at the ACUI (Association of College Unions International Clay Targets Tournament) in San Antonio, where all colleges shoot for the national championship.
“We won the 2017 national championship for international trap by one target over Grand View University,” Bernau said.
Last March, she competed solo at a Team USA selection in Tucson, Ariz., where she tied for second in the junior division. This finish earned her a spot on Team USA’s 2018 World Championship Team and eligibility to compete on an international level.
“Team USA shooting holds two selections every year, one is in fall, the other is in spring,” she said.
Scott Moniot, head coach of the Simpson College Shooting Sports Club, added: “And the reason they call it selections is because the winners of those events are the ones they take to the World Cup. So, you’re shooting to get on to Team USA to be able to travel and represent and shoot for Team USA.”
Moniot was the director of development with SCTP for five years before he came to Simpson to help build up the shooting team, arriving on campus the same year as Bernau.
This was her main reason for considering Simpson.
“Because I competed in SCTP, I knew Scott from a very young age,” she said. “I was with that program for a really long time and I met Scott a couple times. I knew he was really good at coaching and he had a gift for helping young shooters achieve goals.”
Originally, Bernau was set to attend Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO, until one of her coaches mentioned Simpson College and Moniot’s recent hiring.
“I contacted Scott and set up an appointment to visit the campus,” she said. “I knew they had a great science program, and school is most important, so I thought, ‘I think I’m going to give it a shot,’” she said.
Since Moniot and Bernau joined the team in 2016, the Simpson College Shooting Sports Club has continued to grow. This fall, the team will have 20 students participating, including another Bernau: her younger sister, Meredith, who is an upcoming sophomore.
Meredith has been shooting alongside her sister since the beginning and travels around the nation competing with her sister
Outside of the shooting team, Maddy Bernau is a biology major with a chemistry and business management minor, working toward another big goal of hers.
“I want to be a large animal veterinarian,” she said. “I’ve always loved animals and it’s something that I’m very passionate about. If shooting doesn’t work out, I’m able to fall back on it, but I want to see how far I can take this sport.”
Since coming to Simpson, shooting has continued to take Bernau far.
Most recently, to gain more experience shooting internationally before the world championship in Korea later this summer, Team USA sent Bernau to compete in Italy, where she competed at the 2018 Junior Grand Prix and shot against 81 other shooters from nine different countries.
“I went in the finals in fourth place, and I came out first,” Bernau said. “Finals were really rough in the beginning, I missed three targets out of my first five, and I knew something was not right, so I changed a few things and I ended up coming out on top.”
“Every day is different. You don’t always feel the same, and you have to learn how to adapt and make the changes you need so you can be successful,” she said.
Fresh off her win in Italy, Bernau is feeling prepared moving toward the World Championships.
“Just knowing that I can change things if something isn’t working and still shoot well, I feel pretty confident going in,” Bernau said.
Bernau is one of three junior girls from the United States attending the World Championship in South Korea for international trap.But South Korea is just a step to an even bigger goal for Bernau.
“One of my big goals is to participate and podium in one of the future Olympics she said. “It’s what I am training for.”
“There’s a lot of mini-goals to get to that big goal. For example, my coach and I came up with a plan when I walked into Simpson and one of the goals is I must shoot in a world cup. Luckily, I’m going to Korea at the end of the summer,” Bernau said, “so I’m getting that little step out of the way.”
Bernau will compete in South Korea in late August into early September.
However, her ultimate goal in international trap is to perfect the sport; a feat no shooter has accomplished yet.
“There has been some perfect 125/125, but not consistently,” Bernau said, “In American trap, people have gone and run 100s after 100s straight. In bunker, no one’s been able to do that.”
There she goes again, taking aim at another goal.
Don’t count her out.