A year ago, Polson High School’s Andrey Bauer never thought he would be in the position he is to himself for a stable future.
While driving in Ronan, Bauer sustained a concussion after being rear-ended in a car accident at a Ronan gas station and wasn’t wearing his seat belt at the time.
Hitting his head on the windshield twice, Bauer sustained a severe concussion that put his future in jeopardy.
Julie Bauer, Andrey’s mom, recalled his interpretation of the accident.
“Hey told me ‘mom it happened so fast my head was hitting the windshield before I knew it because the car hit me from behind and smacked my head into the windshield,’” Julie Bauer said her son recalled. “That is why I always tell my kids to wear your seat belt, even when you are in town. No one (involved in the accident) was even going 30 miles per hour.”
Admitting to struggling in school and sustaining a concussion from the car accident that caused him to miss his final season of Polson Pirates football, Bauer reorganized his priorities. The quick turn around resulted in Bauer signing to Iowa Western on a Shooting Sports Team scholarship last Wednesday afternoon at Polson High School.
Bauer, a highly accomplished trap, skeet, and clay shooter who has competed at several regional and national events, now will get a chance to shoot competitively at the collegiate level at Iowa Western, and possibly some day join the elite club of international competitors at the Olympics. He admitted all of the goals he has his sights on now seemed far-fetched.
“A year ago, I wasn’t looking at any of this, so it’s a miracle,” Andry Bauer said. “Now my GPA is a 3.34, and I’ve gotten the best grades I’ve ever had. A lot has changed in a year, and I am glad I have changed this way.”
Bauer, who successfully contributed to the Pirates’ football team, couldn’t play because of the non-football related concussion he suffered during the car accident, an incident that both he and his mother claimed re-shifted his priorities entering his senior year.
“He loved both shooting and football, and during his rehab, he visited a physical therapist who specializes with concussions and realized his eyes weren’t tracking well,” Julie Bauer recalled. “Even though he looked fine and acted fine, the computer showed his eyes weren’t tracking right because of the blow to his head. If he had tried to get back to football too soon, it could affect his shooting.”
For three months, Andrey Bauer was unable to shoot or play football, two things he excelled at, and the absence from both changed his perspective and his priorities in a positive way.
“Going through my junior year was the hardest, and I didn’t know if I was going to college because after sustaining the whole wreck was a confusing moment in life,” Andrey Bauer said. “The wreck was a wake-up call for me basically. I thought I was invincible until that happened. I had to shape up and stop messing around. I thought I was invincible, but now I’ve decided to focus and achieve my dream.”
On a shooting scholarship to Iowa Western, Andrey Bauer now can focus on two more areas he excels in: competitive shooting and pipe welding, a profession he has chosen to pursue in college.
“When I looked at the academic side of what Iowa Western had to offer, I can learn to weld, still compete in what I love to do and also get an education out of it,” Bauer said.
Through the pipeline
Fred Grant, who was Bauer’s first 4-H and shooting coach, introduced him to the sport of shooting and opened up another world for him. Grant’s son Cody Grant, a Polson graduate, was a major contributer at Iowa Western, a school located approximately 1,250 geographic miles from Polson, and was primarily responsible at getting him there.
Cody Grant, who graduated five years ago from Polson High and has graduated from Iowa Western on a shooting scholarship, recommended Bauer when Iowa Western shooting coach Derek Pollock mentioned he was looking for recruits. Cody Grant advised Bauer would be a prized recruit.
“When (Derek), who was a friend of Cody Grant, was talking to him, he mentioned he was having trouble finding recruits because a lot of kids in Iowa are good trap shooters, but not skeet and sporting clay shooters,” Julie Bauer said. “That is when Cody recommended Andrey, and said ‘you need to recruit this kid from Montana.’ They offered to fly him out and meet the other guys on the team.”
Carving a niche
Because there aren’t many college-sanctioned shooting sports offered in the Western regions, Andrey had to look elsewhere in order to continue his shooting career.
“They would love to stay closer to home and shoot, but there were no colleges close to Montana that had a shooting team at the college,” Julie Bauer said. “From my understanding, a lot of shooters aren’t good at all three disciplines such as trap, skeet and sporting clays.”
Now headed to college, Andrey Bauer, who has already carved a niche for himself competing regionally and nationally in various shooting events, has Olympic aspirations. With signing to Iowa Western Wednesday, he has taken on more step towards one of his ultimate goals: the Olympics.
Focused and rejuvenated, Andry Bauer, who was adopted by his current parents Kenneth and Julie Bauer from the country of Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic when he was two years old, now looks to turn the accident into a blessing, for it inadvertently enabled him to achieve his dreams.
“In a way, the accident turned out to a be a big blessing,” Julie Bauer said. “We would have never wished him not to play football and be with his friends, but (the accident) made him take a look at the bigger picture of life. The therapist said ‘if you hit your head again, every time it gets worse.’” She also said he would need his hands and if he got hit again, it might affect not only his ability to play football but also his ability to shoot. He had to take a step back and evaluate what was important in life.’”
Julie Bauer, who played college basketball for Northwestern University, a Big-10 school in Skokie, Illinois, is even more thankful for his day of signing after all of the adversity he overcame to help achieve his aspirations in both shooting and in college.
Andrey Bauer, who began shooting at the local 4-H to qualify for his first national shooting tournament as a sophomore in high school, continues to showcase the plethora of opportunities available in non-mainstream sports.
“There are a lot of opportunities out there,” Julie Bauer said. “I always encourage kids to look into different sports, and explore their passions. For Andrey, it turned out very well.”