Championships a family affair for Keldsens

WALKERTON — Skeet shooting runs in the Keldsen family. And so, apparently, does winning national championships.
Last week brothers Isaac and Logan Keldsen, a senior and a freshman at John Glenn High School, respectively, won the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) International Team National Championship at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, Colo. along with teammate Sydney Carson, also of Glenn. The team, which competes as part of the Hoosier Gun Swingers Club based out of Walkerton, is coached by Isaac’s and Logan’s father James, who also helped coach son Jakob, a former Hoosier Gun Swinger and current Purdue skeet shooter, to a championship at the event in 2009.
All total, the Keldsens boast shares of five national championships between them, and they agree that their family ties help make their skeet titles all the more special.
“It is hard to explain how proud I am of them and how satisfying it makes me feel,” said James. “Coaching my sons and all of the team members provides me with so many wonderful memories. It is rewarding for me to be able to provide young kids the opportunity to participate in a great sport and to be able to watch them learn, grow and work so hard. After all, you cannot win this many championships if the kids do not practice and push themselves to be the best. The kids compete with the best Olympic and American Skeet shooters in the nation and excel at it. It is such a wonderful feeling when you see them standing on the podium and even more so when one is your own child.”
“Winning the championship felt awesome,” said Logan. “When we won it wasn’t really a surprise because we all new that we had it in us. It especially felt great for me because I was not having one of my best shoots and I was kinda down about it, but having Isaac and Sydney as my teammates really helped. It was awesome to have my brother on my squad because I look up to him, and same with my dad as our coach. It would have felt even more memorable if our coach Rudy Adams could have been there. We as a family spend a lot of time and money to shoot, and if it wasn’t for mom and dad we would have never got those championships.”
“When I heard we won I felt a sigh of relief, I knew we could do it we just had to do our best. Shooting with my brother and having my dad as a coach made the whole experience even better,” echoed Isaac. “It shows that our family is dedicated and wants to win. Everyone can do it, the people that win are the ones who put in the most time on the training field.”
The Keldsens’ most recent championship, the International Team National Championship in Colorado Springs on Aug. 4, was just the latest for the family, which owns pieces of five national titles between the three brothers — oldest brother Jakob was a winner at both the 2009 international team event as well as in the varsity division of the 2012 American Skeet National Championships, while Isaac was a winner with the Gun Swingers in the Intermediate Advanced Division at the American Skeet nationals in 2010.
The Aug. 4 nationals came down to the final round as the Gun Swingers delegation broke 588 of 675 total targets — Isaac, Logan and Carson each took a crack at 225 targets as the course of fire was cut down from 300 targets following weather and mechanical delays on day one — to beat out the second-place team by a razor-thin margin of just four targets.
It was an exciting finish for the team, which got back on top after second-place finishes each of the past three years. In an interesting twist, the last time the team had won was also the last year Jakob competed with the Gun Swingers, back in 2009.
“It feels good to be named national champs, especially since we have been second the past three years, and hopefully we will be first again in the next couple of years,” said Logan.
“Yes placing second three years in a row at the SCTP Team International Nationals was truly frustrating,” Isaac said. “We always had a solid team, but we drop a few targets that we know we could have hit. The worst part was it was to the same team that we lost to. But this year we beat them. Also getting second three years in a row just made us motivated to win this year.”
The Keldsens’ history with skeet shooting began in 2007 when Jakob joined the Hoosier Gun Swingers out of curiosity in the gun club’s second year of existence. Father James soon signed on as an assistant coach under head coach Rudy Adams, and the team quickly gained national attention when it won its first international-style skeet national title in 2009 (the team, which is comprised of 25 shooters has now won a total of six national championships in just eight years), a year after Isaac first joined the team. Logan also joined the club in 2008 but was too young to shoot, so he paid dues by first working as the “puller” launching the clay pigeons for shooters at the Gun Swingers’ practice facility in Walkerton before becoming a full-fledged member with the team in 2009.
Isaac and Logan agreed that they were both following their older brothers’ example in joining the team, and hope to eventually emulate Jakob in another way, as he has earned spots on three different USA National Shooting Teams.
“Since I was out there with Isaac and Jakob while they practiced I learned some tips and tricks before even shooting that much,” explained Logan. “I do feel like I am following in both of my brothers’ footsteps, and hopefully we all end up getting on the National team. It would be pretty cool to have three Keldsens all on the National team. I think the major thing that keeps me coming back is just how much fun it is to go out and shoot at targets that are flying 60 miles an hour, and once you have been up on a podium and received a big trophy and a medal you just keep wanting more and more.”
“My brother started shooting in 2007. I went to a few practices and watched the team shoot, but I was not around a whole lot. The next year my parents encouraged me to start shooting. At school I persuaded two of my friends to try it out also. We went to the first practice and the owner of the field, Rudy Adams, said that I was a natural, meaning that before any training I already had decent form and could break some targets,” Isaac said. “At that point I fell in love with shooting. I do feel like I am following my brother’s footsteps to a degree. He is a great shooter, he got on the Junior Olympic Team and then the Junior National Team which only two or three juniors in the nation get on. I would certainly love to follow his footsteps in achieving that goal.”
While the Keldsens have enjoyed tremendous success in their sport, that success hasn’t come without sacrifice.
The family spends much of its money on skeet shooting and much of its time practicing, reloading shells and traveling to competitions around the country. The time and money spent on skeet shooting means cutbacks in other areas, and family tensions sometime rear their ugly head.
But overall the family agrees their bonds are strengthened by the extra time they spend in their sport, and Isaac and Logan both say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It is truly difficult to describe what it is like to participate on this team as both a coach and as a parent. My wife Victoria and I have made the sport a family experience,” said James. “For the most part we spend all of our vacation time, and a large amount of our free time at practices, reloading shotgun shells, organizing and running the team, and traveling to shooting competitions. In order to compete at the level we do, we spend a lot of time together practicing, traveling, et cetera. While it may sound like a burden to devote the amount of time to the sport that we do, it is really a blessing as it keeps us close together as a family. I enjoy coaching the kids on our team and being involved with such great kids gives you hope for the future.”
“Mom and dad use up pretty much all there vacation and money on us kids, and we are very grateful. It is awesome having my brother as one of my teammates, and I can’t explain how great it is to have my father as my coach,” said Logan. “We all try to keep each other motivated. It does make it better, but sometimes we get on each others nerves. We are brothers though and that is what brothers do so its normal. I believe it has made us bond a little more.”
“There is a sacrifice we have to take to do this, but also we get travel all over the country. So there are positives and negatives,” Isaac said. “My parents have invested heavily in shooting. I didn’t get a phone until a little over a year ago. My little brother still doesn’t have one. We don’t have dish TV. We receive six channels on TV. Also on birthdays and Christmas we don’t get that much. But all three of us would choose shooting over all that any day of the week. I am truly blessed with the opportunity I have. Not many parents would do what mine do… Shooting and competing with my brothers and having my dad as my coach does bring us all together. Sometimes having my dad as a coach can be frustrating just because we butt heads. But it brings us closer as a family. It’s definitely strengthened our family bonds.”