TUCSON - When it comes to the obscure world of women’s world-class trapshooting competition, Caitlin Barney Weinheimer knows about long climbs.
After competing in the USA Shooting Olympics Qualifying Finals at the Tucson Skeet and Trap Club in late May, she knows she has more work to do.
After leading the nation in the women’s division by six points going into the finals, Weinheimer of Kerrville, Texas, finished fourth among six world-class trapshooting women (all age 25 or younger). She narrowly missed the lone berth for women’s trapshooting in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London from July 25 through Aug. 12. The women’s trapshooting event, a sport seeing a resurgence in recent years, is on Aug. 4.
Although Weinheimer finished with an overall score of 467 of 500 targets and had the best final by hitting 23 of 25 targets during the finals shootout, she only hit 77 of 100 targets in the first round the previous week and couldn't catch up.
“It’s been a neat experience to see and do,” the 22-year-old said of vying for the lone spot on the women’s trapshooting team in the Olympics.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” Weinheimer said. “I got kind of nervy and didn’t do well on the first day. But I and some of my friends decided we’re lifers and I’ve got some work to do. Trapshooting is not a sport like gymnastics where your peak at 16 or 20 and you’re done by 22. The average of an international trapshooter is 34, so we’re not putting up the gun anytime soon. I’ll be back.”
Corey Codgell (Alaska), the trapshooting bronze medalist in the 2008 Olympics, came on strong and earned 481 points, plus her second trip to the big show and is expected to face a strong shooting team from China.
Kayle Browning (Arkansas) finished second with a score of 471. Miranda Wilder (Texas) and Kelsey Zauhar of Lakeville, Minn., tied for third with 468. Rachael Heiden of Clinton, Mich., finished fifth with 466.
“I’m definitely excited to be going back and I expect to medal again,” said Codgell, who lives at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I’m going to train as hard as I can. I’m looking for a strong performance and to shoot to the best of my ability.”
All of which means it’s far from over for Weinheimer.
A young start, a long climb
Weinheimer graduated from Schreiner University with a bachelor’s degree in communications a few days before the finals. She vowed to return to qualifying in 2016. Her "break" from competition won’t last long, as she’ll be competing as a member of the Women’s National Trapshooting Team on July 4 in Colorado Springs, an open event involving about 300 shooters. She also hopes to participate as a member of USA Shooting’s World Championship Team next year.
In Caitlin’s case, her gun is a Perazzi 12-gauge shotgun she calls “Papageorgio,” after the character Nick Papageorgio from the National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation movies with Chevy Chase.
It’s a gun she takes great care of in order to maintain her consistency of knocking off the skeets coming out of the traps at about 75 miles per hour.
She has risen to be one of the top ranked female shooters in the country, later the Junior Olympics Team, the National Trapshooting Team, its traveling Team and the World Championship Team.
The trail of the Weinheimer’s trapshooting career began at a young age. Weinheimer first began hunting with her father. Garry Barney, when she was about six years old. She often hunted dove in the wide-open fields of her hometown of El Paso. where her father worked on the El Paso Fire Department and retired from. He now works for the Texas Forest Service as a Regional Fire Coordinator covering the San Antonio region.
To get her leads down, her dad took her to the El Paso Skeet and Trap club when she was about 12, but the Skeet fields were broken so she decided to give American trapshooting a try and did well.
She soon joined a local 4-H trapshooting group where she continued to hone her shooting skills. Her first time out, she hit 17 of 25 targets, whirring straight into the air at about 45 mph. She trains about four or five days a week, shooting 200 to 300 targets in that time.
“I just fell in love with it,” Weinheimer said of trapshooting. It was challenging, hard and exhilarating. It was fun. When you hit a target just right, you feel it all the way to the core. My career took off from there.”
Facing the future
Now, living in Kerrville, Texas, close to the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center, Weinheimer also has aspirations to enter law school. She also plans to continue balancing her training regimen and family life, being married to her husband, Kyle.
“We’re really proud of her,” said Cailin’s father, Garry Barney. “She’s a nationally-ranked world-class athlete with a bright future in front of her.”
While Weinheimer tried to blaze a trail of experience, she did so while the Olympics have struggled with whether to continue a legacy of shooting sports. The women’s trapshooting doubles competition was eliminated 1996.
The shooting sports once were the second-most expensive sport behind equestrian sports. However, shooting sports was one of the few that was a part of the Olympics since its beginnings in 1896. Kevin Neundorf, a spokesman for USA Shooting, doesn't believe it would make sense to abandon that legacy.
“It’s our Super Bowl," said Neuendorf, noting the U.S. has won 103 medals in shooting sports. "It’s a time for shooters to showcase their sport. A lot of America doesn’t understand the amount of success we have had in the shooting categories. We’re right up there with a lot of sports you don’t hear about. The Olympics are a goldmine for our future. To see such a young group of world-class women trapshooters, it’s actually pretty amazing when you think about it.”
Susan Sledge, 25, finished second to Codgell in the 2008 USA Shooting Olympics Qualifying Finals, but finished 10th at this year’s finals. Sledge also said that shooting is a sport for life, and she doesn’t plan to walk away from the sport anytime soon.
“I give props to Corey (Codgell) and Kayle (Browning) for keeping their composure,” Weinheimer said. “I got a little nervy on the first day, but you can’t do that. It’s a little heart-breaking that I didn’t make it, but by no means is this over. In the end, I’m still glad I did it and still glad that I was here. I’m going to come back in four years.
“The best shooters are the ones who stick through the bad times so the good times can happen.”
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