Brian Burrows, a member of the 2021 US Olympic team for shooting, calmly walked up to the line on the Painted Woods shooting range Saturday, April 24.
He loaded one shell into his shotgun, pushed his glasses up with his finger, then stopped. For a very brief moment he waited before taking aim and saying, “Pull.”
One by one, traps flew out of the house at his command and one by one he hit each and every trap. Between each shot he would repeat the same process—stop, reload, push his glasses up, pause, take aim and say pull.
He shot for less than a minute and in that minute he hit all five of his targets.
After hitting his final target, he ejected the empty shell, placed his shotgun down at his side pointed toward the ground and turned around.
“OK,” he said turning to the crowd and smiling. “Who wants to shoot?”
Burrows visited the Coyote Clay Target League on Saturday at the Painted Woods range to teach the athletes all he knew about trap shooting.
And his visit was a sort of fortunate stroke of serendipity.
Brian is married to Kelsy, whose maiden name is Arnson .
Although Kelsy isn’t from Williston, both her parents are.
Paul and Kristi Arnson graduated from Williston High School in the 80s and Kristi, played basketball at UND-Williston — now Williston State College.
She was coached by none other than Penny Slagle, now the head coach for the Coyote Clay Target League.
Brian and Kelsy were going to be in Williston for a wedding and Kelsy said she reached out to Slagle and asked if they could come and teach a thing or two to the young athletes.
“And here we are,” Kelsy said, happily.
From 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Brian talked to the kids, answered questions, gave them tips on how to shoot, how to handle missing targets, how to clear their minds and how to feel comfortable on the line.
He shared as much as he could including his own experiences with those in attendance, and ultimately, he taught them that if they love something and if they want it then they shouldn’t stop.
“There’s going to be times where you’re not at the top of your game,” he said during the Q and A session. “But, if this is what you want, then don’t quit.”
He also encouraged the kids and reminded them that they are capable of advancing through their trap careers.
Brian said he has been shooting since he was two, but it wasn’t until he was 15 when he learned about international trap shooting and its role in the Olympics.
From that point on he was dedicated to advancing his own career with the sport, something he said young athletes should do.
“You have to be dedicated to every shot and making every shot count…You gotta love it,” he said. “You gotta be self motivated.”
He mentioned how he competed all over the world, in different tournaments and world cups but his olympic breakthrough came in 2019 when he helped the United States men’s trap program earn Olympic quota spots for the U.S. at the Pan American games in Peru.
Brian won a gold medal at the 2019 games, but that was only the first step.
He then went on to claim his spot on the actual Olympic team after competing in two trial rounds.
Brian, along with Derrick Mein, will be the only two men representing the U.S. this year in shooting, which is the first time in 12 years. They are joined by teammates Kayle Browning and Madelynn Bernau.
But aside from being on the Olympic team and representing the country, when asked what it meant to be able to help kids in the Williston area, Brian said he’s teaching the future of the sport.
“Whenever I coach people, kids especially, I tell them, ‘Hey, come and take my job.’ I’m not going to try to hold on to it for as long as I can,” he said. “(But) I’m not going to just give it to you, (you have to) come and take it. That’s what I want. If I can coach somebody to give them an edge…and they can be successful and win to whatever level they want to that makes me feel good. I’ve done my job to help the sport and help grow some kids.”
Kelsy, who stood next to Brian before the Q and A session kicked off, said coaching isn’t new to Brian.
“He’s a very good and talented coach. He wouldn’t tell you that but I did,” Kelsy said, laughing and looking up at Brian who in turn smiled down at her, admirably.
There’s less than 90 days until the 2021 Olympic Games and before Brian will throw on his Team USA jacket and head for Tokyo.
This is the first Olympic Games for Brian, and although his family can’t be there to watch, Kelsy said they’ll have a watch party no matter what.
And Brian said everything right now and being able to represent his country is just awesome.
“It’s all cool you think you get to go to all these countries and you got “USA” on your back and it’s great,” he said. “But until you’re on top of the podium and they raise the flag and you see it waving in the wind and they play the national anthem, that’s a moment that will be burned in my mind forever. It’ll be so surreal.”