WON Landing Page OCT 2022

Sara Ahren’s OffBeat: And Top Shot’s Season Three winner is (Drum roll, please) … DUSTIN ELLERMANN

Let me point out the obvious, I lost in elimination to the guy who won the whole competition. I have been waiting months to be able to make that announcement. Whew! Do I feel bad about being beat in elimination by the guy that no one else could beat? Hell, no!


Dustin Ellermann.jpg

Truthfully … on the day I was eliminated by Dustin Ellermann, I didn’t feel bad about losing to Dustin. I only felt bad that Dustin and I were the ones sent to elimination. As I sat in my hotel room “celebrating” my 38th birthday (alone), I secretly wished that Dustin (or Alex) would win the whole competition. I wanted some vindication and Dustin was the only one that could achieve that for me. I have since figured out that we were both sent to elimination for the same reasons, we are nice and we were perceived as physically weak.

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Top Shot - Season 3 - group shot with Colby. Photo courtesy of History.com.

The first Blue Team elimination was because we lost the second competition (due to a malfunctioning AK-47 — which was subsequently edited out). Mike Hughes and I were able to recover from our malfunctions, and get our shots off. We had partners that were able to make up the lost time because their AK-47s were functioning.  Jake Zweig, however, was unable to get the AK-47 functioning in time to get his rounds downrange, and didn’t have a partner to help him make up the time.  The fact that the Blue Team had to go to elimination was a hard pill for us all swallow. Initially as a team we decided to shoot each other’s target and let Colby make the determination who would go to elimination.  This proved to be too chancy for some teammates, and Jake announced that he would be voting for me. Suddenly everyone decided that this would mess up the initial plan, so now everyone had to vote for someone. At one point it was mentioned that if Colby were to select the contestants to go to elimination the Blue Team “might lose a good shooter.”  (I find this funny that less than a week into the competition with under three dozen rounds fired, anyone could determine who was a “good shooter” and who was a “bad shooter.” )  Obviously, since Dustin was sent to elimination, there were some misjudgments about skills.

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Sara Ahrens. Photo courtesy of History.com. 

The main reason I think Dustin and I were sent to elimination is because we are nice people.  I think a couple competitors on the Blue Team interpreted “nice” for “weak.” I think in the awkward elimination meeting it was easier for my teammates to latch onto Jake’s suggestion than it was to chance being sent to elimination themselves. I don’t feel any resentment over the fact that I was sent, only that Jake wasn’t. He definitely earned his spot in elimination by that point based on his poor performance in the first two competitions, which were the result of mental breakdowns. Additionally, his attitude earned him a spot.

The second reason Dustin and I were sent to elimination was because we were perceived as physically weaker. I will give Jake some love on this one, he never doubted my physical abilities. Based on interviews, it seemed that at least one of my teammates doubted my physical abilities. (No matter that in the 11 years in the Army I always maxed out on my physical agility scores and that I passed the physical agility test for my SWAT team – yes the same test the men take, and better than some of them.) I think I was actually more offended that my physical abilities were in question than my shooting abilities. Nevertheless, there was a perception that big, strong men were needed to win Top Shot.  Wrong again and Dustin is proof. One thing I understand from my years on a SWAT team, is that sometimes you need small agile people too — it’s not always about your strength if you can’t get to or into your destination. When I was younger, I would make critical remarks about other people’s decisions and abilities. My very wise mother would remind me that, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round.” She was right and I don’t dismiss people based on initial impressions.

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Dustin Ellermann. Photo courtesy of Kilcrease Photography.

So as Season 3 wraps up, I had to give a shout out to my brother from another mother, Dustin Ellerman. A man that is truly blessed and gifted. I am SO glad that he won, because believe it or not (even with my potty mouth) I am working on being a more Christ-centered individual. I had hoped to win Top Shot in order to pay some bills, which would allow me to give more to my church and give some of the winnings to my church. Turns out that the winnings are only about $53,000 after taxes, so my giving wouldn’t have been as generous as I had imagined, lol. I now see that God had an even better plan. By Dustin winning Top Shot, doors have opened for him to speak at various churches giving him the opportunity to spread the glory of God. I really believe that Dustin’s win will allow him to use the gifts God gave him to spread His word. I realize now this was all part of God’s plan, and I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to meet and compete against Dustin.

Congratulations Dustin, you deserved it!

Visit Camp His Way, where Dustin Ellermann is the camp director.

 Sara Ahren’s Offbeat is sponsored by Otis Technology.



The Conversation

  • Mike says: October 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks for your perspective. It is quite refreshing to see that there are good people like you and Dustin get a little of the spotlight. We need more role models like you guys. Keep up the good work.

    ShotMuse3 and iPone app for Shooters.

  • Janet Ellinger says: October 27, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Think maybe you were one of the first because you are female? That was my take on it. They make sure to get the gals out right in the beginning….maybe because they don’t want to be beaten by a woman? Just a theory…. I’m sorry we didn’t get to see you gals shoot more. I was rootin’ for ya’!

  • Tim Swanson says: October 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I live about 30 miles from Camp His Way and work in Lufkin, just north of Zavalla. I started watching Top Shot the night you were eliminated. Of course, I’ve pulled for Dustin ever since that night – with no disrespect for you.
    Your article was really great; I enjoyed it very much.
    I do a daily blog from a Christian perspective and with such great material as Dustin living in my backyard and winning Top Shot, it gave me the inspiration for http://kswptim.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/dustin-and-goliath/ .
    I’ll admit, I did think about your elimination by Dustin while writing, since you have military training I see you as one of the “giants” that he overcame.
    Still, from your article I think your a nice person and I’ll be praying for you to have a closer relationship with Him!

  • Daryl Billings says: October 27, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Sara, Whether you were the first to leave Top Shot or the one taking the all of the honors, you are a winner. Your attitude in the first episode showed your character is one that would rather speak with actions rather than small talk. To be eliminated by the best is what happened to all of the contestants. Dustin smoked them all. The $100,000 prize, before taxes, is a small sliver of the treasure that you have in the Kingdom of God. We need more Christ-centered individuals in law enforcement. I spent 17 years in wildlife law enforcement in Missouri. I loved the job and tried to be the best ambassador of Christ that I could at the time. I encourage you to be all the Lord intends for you to be. You will find your training will be very helpful as you lead the assault on the forces of darkness. Blessings, Daryl Billings

    • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 5:46 pm

      Thank you for your kind comments. I agree that one should be all the lord intended, sometimes his intentions are not clear. I have learned to trust HIm. The older I get the more obvious the signs.

  • Lenee Landis says: October 27, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Sara–great analysis. You are a champ!

  • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 7:59 am

    I almost exploded Paige. You know me I like to run my mouth. When I read the confidentiality agreement I had to think about it for 2 days…I told Mike I know myself too well and didn’t think I could keep those kinds of secrets. I am proud of myself for controling it. I feel like I grew LOL.

  • Kirk says: October 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm


    Every month or so I drive through a small, calm, unassuming town buried deep in the heart of Angelina National Forest: Zavalla, Texas. In that little one-stoplight town lives an unassuming man named Dustin Ellermann. So unassuming, it takes a while — weeks actually — to realize, amidst the bluster and bravado and noise, that he wears the heart of a champion. He’s not a Navy Seal or a recognized firearms instructor, and he can’t bench press a Mach truck; he’s just a nice guy who can shoot a golf ball off a tee from 100 yards away with a .22.

    Dustin has shown us that the nice guy sometimes wins; you have shown us that the nice guy sometimes doesn’t. Both champions, outcome notwithstanding. [hat tip]

    Thanks for your article. I wish you continued success.

  • Nina Leifeste says: October 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Great article and fitting tribute to the winner Dustin. Way to go! Best of luck in the future!

  • Larry Peterson says: October 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    very good comments, the show ended on a very high note the best shooter won, very good to hear from a person that has been voted off to say such nice things, Yes to the glory of God this one will go to , Thanks for a great show but better for such good sportsmenship grest news artical, keep smiling and keep you powder dry

  • Ross Caston says: October 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Sara ~

    That is a great article and shows what type of person you truly are. I wish you the best in all your future endeavors. Both you and Dustin are class acts that have my respect.

    • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

      Ross, I wish I had more time on the show with Dustin…he could have helped me along with my spiritual journey…maybe he’ll let me go to his camp:)?
      Dustin – I promise I would clean up the bleeps.
      The show brought out the worst in me in that regard lol! For the record, they showed every time I slipped, so it wasn’t every moment I was in the house, unlike Jake.

  • QueenBee says: October 26, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Sara! You and Dustin were two of our early favorites and when you two went to elimination we were sad coz we knew one of you was about to go. Personally, I wanted a woman to go far in the competition for the 3rd season and you seemed to be the best candidate for that. It just was not the Master’s plan. God bless you in your endeavors! Cheers from the Philippines!

    • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

      How funny…we were my favorites too! LOL. I will share something a little more personal about that elimination meeting. I believed with all my heart that every person in that room knew Jake was evil and knew his performance was the MOST deserving of going to elimination. When I was asked in that meeting who I was voting for I opted to keep it a secret. I wanted to share, but I was fighting back tears of frustration and didn’t want to sway anyone’s votes with emotion. I simply asked the group to vote for the person they felt was the most deserving (not based on resumes, but on performance and teamwork). I didn’t want tears to generate pity and save me if the group felt I was the one who should go. I was glad I trusted that instinct as I think it was the right way to handle it. Soon the attack turned on Dustin and I thought to myself, “really, Dustin?” and I felt horrible. I made my statement, that I am not going to live in fear of a bully, definitely a David and Goliath moment. My nature is to take confrontation head on, not avoid it. I saw some episodes where I am sure God knew better to get me off the show because my instincts to intervene in conflict and take charge would have not worked out well for me, personally or professionally. Dustin has the perfect disposition to survive that circus and come out smelling like a rose.

      • Randall Dunning says: November 1, 2011 at 5:38 pm

        With regard to the evil behavior of Jake I thought of Proverbs 28:1 – “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.” That about sums it up.

  • Sandra Crosnoe says: October 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you Sara for your wonderful testimony and perspective on the season.

    I would say that the Lord used you powerfully to expose wickedness and help to bring about a special story blessing many in the process. I pray that you would would grow in Him and be blessed in ways beyond your expectation from the experience. I hope you will keep in touch with the Ellermanns. They are special people indeed!

    But I suspect that you are as well~


    • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 7:55 am


      When I actually got onto the show, I had my doubts (see my previous blog about the Top Shot experience being worth far more than $100,000). I trusted that this opportunity was to be able to do something awesome, beyond just the shooting. I thought initially that it was to use my talent in shooting to help my church. I have come to realize it might have more to do with using my ability to communicate. Whatever His purpose, I never doubt ‘the plan.’

  • Crystal Newman says: October 26, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Great article! For what it’s worth, you were my fav. before the season even started. (: we need a whole lot more like you!

  • Dustin Ellermann says: October 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks for the great write up Sara! Good stuff! Can’t wait to catch up at SHOT!

    • Barbara Baird says: October 27, 2011 at 7:29 am

      Congrats from all of us at Women’s Outdoor News, Dustin.

    • Sara Ahrens says: October 27, 2011 at 7:57 am

      Much love! Seriously the finale was a David and Goliath moment. It was great to see you with your wife.

      • Brittany says: October 27, 2011 at 10:22 pm

        Great article Sara, I hope we can meet one day! Thanks for being a true woman of honor, and having so much more character and class than, well, “other” people. I’m glad you and my husband are on great terms. But still sorry you got eliminated on your birthday!

  • Barbara Baird says: October 26, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Yes, Paige … Sara is one of the people who does not ever put on airs, who is honest to the bone and who is good –even if she might occasionally sway to the potty mouth side. 😉

  • Randall Dunning says: October 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Great article Sara. You and Dustin both proved to be class acts! Shalom!