For the second year in a row, the Juneau Trap Shooting Team is sending four shooters to compete in the National Junior Clay Target Championships. The tournament, which kicks off Thursday in San Antonio, Texas, attracts participants from all across the country.
Mackenzie Lam, 11, Brice Norton, 16, Renee Win, 18, and Garret Hermann, 18 — part of the team that just returned from the state championships — will be joined by three other Alaskans at the June 28-July 1 competition.
Each shooter will compete in six different events: American trap, American skeet, sporting clays, five-stand, international trap and international skeet. All six events vary where the clay targets are “thrown” from and where the shooter is positioned in relation to the throwing device.
Lam and Win each claimed three gold medals at the national competition last year, underscoring what Juneau trap coach Mark Kappler already knew about his team — their strong determination.
“We set goals to reach that next level (and) they’ve reached them,” Kappler said of the four going to Texas. “Every time we go and shoot, it doesn’t matter if it’s a tournament or practice — tournament’s a lot more pressure — they excel at, they shoot, they handle the pressure really well.”
After her mom encouraged her to try it out, Win found she was actually quite good at trap shooting. The enjoyment of shooting clay targets with friends keeps her coming back for more.
“These people are like my family,” Win said. “It’s just fun to see the target explode like fireworks. It makes your heart beat 10 times faster.”
The 18-year-old senior ladies shooter is fresh off an American trap state title. Win shot the same number of clay targets as her teammate Norton— 91 out of 100 — who came in 14th place in the event for senior varsity men.
Norton, an incoming junior at Thunder Mountain High School, said he it took him a while to gain his footing in the sport.
“I didn’t shoot more than a couple birds the first time I came out here,” Norton said.
He added it took a lot of practice to get to where he is now.
“A lot of it, once you get the fundamentals down like your stance and your mount, it’s really just how you focus,” Norton said. “It becomes more of like a mind game.”
Fast forward two years and there are far more “birds” Norton hits than misses. Even so, he knows missing just a few targets out of 100 in some disciplines makes a big difference in a national competition.
“If you want to place, you gotta shoot pretty much perfect scores,” Norton said. “Last year there were ties at 100-straight for multiple events.”
That’s the level of excellence Lam is striving for. The 11-year-old already has reached the milestone of hitting 25 targets in a row — a perfect round — an achievement that earned her a patched commemorating the accomplishment.
“Trap keeps me active in a way,” Lam said. “The sports at school will end eventually and this really never ends.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.