Aiming high from class to fields to targets

Friday 19 January 2024

Bachelor of Agricultural Science student Ashling Welch is sowing seeds for success by creating balance between her study and sporting career.

Last updated: Monday 22 January 2024

While growing up on the Hauraki Plains, Ashling began her clay target shooting career at age 13 after being inspired by her dad and brother. A talent and passion for shooting was discovered, leading Ashling to begin competing alongside her family.

Now 19 years old, Ashling has already achieved significant milestones in her shooting career. Highlights include winning her first national title at the Sporting Nationals in the ladies’ category in 2021. She continued this success by retaining her national title the following year, solidifying her position as the top young competitor in the country for the sport by holding the South Island, North Island and New Zealand Ladies titles.

Ashling also had the opportunity to travel overseas for the first time to shoot in the Oceania junior team in Australia.

“Nationals saw a massive change in my shooting and gave me so much confidence. My time in Australia was an eye opener to the competitive world of clay target shooting. What I enjoy most about the sport is that I can enjoy it with my friends and family. My friends and I can shoot alongside each other and everyone at shooting events are very supportive. They’ve become my closest friends and mentors,” Ashling says.

Ashling’s choice of university was partly influenced by her family, as her grandfather studied at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University. She says Massey’s Academy of Sport programme was another influential factor.

“I’ve always been very interested and involved in agriculture, but wanted support to take on the challenges of balancing work, social life and my sporting commitments. Massey’s Academy of Sport has been such a big help in finding that balance. I’ve learnt that I can get easily overwhelmed and find it hard to focus if I overcommit myself, but through the Academy I’ve found different ways to manage my time and ways to relax so I can achieve everything I need to. Planning a schedule and prioritising important tasks have been key learnings.”

Now a year into her study, Ashling says it’s been a great journey so far.

“I found I quickly adapted to the different learning style compared to high school and have found the work interesting. I enjoy the lab projects, such as animal dissections, and getting to visit different farms and interact with various animals.”

Ashling lives between the Waikato and the Manawatū so she can attend the Palmerston North campus, but says her future will involve further travel outside of Aotearoa.

“I will be attending the 2024 Fédération Internationale de Tir aux Armes Sportives de Chasse (FITASC) Sporting Clays Worlds competition, which is the biggest event of the year and is held in Wisconsin in the United States of America.”

To see her through the busy months of competition preparation and her second year of study, Ashling will lean into her secret to success which she says is persistence.

“It’s important to never give up. Keep an open mind to the people who are trying to help you, take the advice on offer and figure out what works for you.”

Ashling says support is the other key ingredient to success.

“I would like to thank everyone on the Academy of Sport team for their help in 2023. They have made the balance of work, social life and sport so much easier and are always there if I need help. I’m looking forward to joining the team this year. A big thank you to all my supporters and sponsors in my sporting career, and to my family and friends for the constant support and encouragement that helps keep me going.”

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