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Shooting for the big stage

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Carey earns clinic invite, eyes Olympic trials

By Brandon Mattingly

Stephanie Carey has established herself as one of the top trap shooters in the collegiate ranks, and she’s done so without the benefit of any formal coaching.

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The senior at the University of Kentucky raked in numerous high overall trophies in the ladies’ division this past season and placed tied for 12th overall in American trap at the ACUI (Association of College Unions International) national competition in March, while leading the Wildcats to a fifth-place overall finish in the second division.

The best part of Carey’s strong performance in American trap is that her score qualified her to apply for a clinic at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. Six male and six female participants were chosen for the trip based on recent results, as well as a shooting résumé that reviewed scores from the past two years.

Carey said it was “a complete shock” when she found out that she’d qualified for the clinic, where shooting fundamentals, conditioning and competition with the other shooters will be the focus of the four-day session.

“I looked over the itinerary and it reminds me of boot camp,” Carey said. “I have conditioning and homework and everything like that, but it’s going to be a pretty cool experience, I think.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’m glad this is something I got involved with when I was younger and carried on to my college career,” she added. “I couldn’t think of a better way to end my collegiate career.”

The clinic will be held by shooting coaches, including some who have worked with Olympic athletes in the past. Having taught herself nearly everything she knows about shooting a shotgun, the opportunity to work with experts in the field is an appealing one to Carey.

“I’ve never had a coach. Everything I have learned has either been self-taught or has been from my brother,” she said. “Just to say, ‘I learned from an Olympian’s coach,’ I’ll be happy just being able to say that.”

Though Carey is hoping to impress on this week’s trip (Thursday through Sunday), she said she’s aware that there are shooters who spend an extensive amount of time in — or even permanently move to — Colorado Springs to receive training from professional coaches. Still, she knows that she could draw enough attention this week to be invited back.

“I’m not really sure what it will take for the next step yet,” she said. “I know it’s a very long shot thinking about Olympic stuff, but they’ll ask people to come back to Olympic trials to compete to get on the USA team. I’m not saying that will happen, but this is how they find people to look at for the team.”

Carey said she’s focusing on bunker, or Olympic-style, trap shooting while preparing for the clinic, something that she’s had limited experience with because of the nearest facility being located in Nashville. In the end, however, she said shooting is all about what’s going on between the ears of the shooter, so she’s trying to remember not to put any additional pressure on herself.

“A big thing is that shooting is all mental, so I’m trying to prepare myself mentally not to go out there thinking this is going to take me to the Olympics,” she said.

Were she to actually realize that goal, however, Carey said she’s not completely sure how she’d handle herself.

“I don’t think I could even put it into words. That is a huge dream and would be absolutely amazing.”