Sports

Right on target

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by MICHAEL DASHIELL
Sequim Gazette


Jaiden Grinnell likes to aim high.

And, as often is the case, she hit her target.

Grinnell, a Port Angeles resident and one of the top skeet shooters in the country, earned a place on the national skeet shooting team after winning the fall selection match in Kerrville, Texas, in early September.

Grinnell is one of three American athletes aiming to score the single berth to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.

Now a student at the University of Colorado, Grinnell joins roommate Caitlin Connor in trying to oust Kim Rhode, a two-time gold medalist and four-time Olympian, from the lone American berth.

Grinnell studied under the tutelage of Sequim’s Matt Dryke, the 1984 gold medalist, and has since become a force on the national skeet shooting team. In 2010 she placed second at the Junior Olympics in Colorado Springs, Colo., took silver in the junior women’s division at the World Championships in Munich, and finally took home gold at the fall selection match in Kerr-ville, earning herself a spot on the USA world team along with Connor and Rhode.

“I feel like I’m on the right track,” Grinnell says. “Making that world team, it’ll give me a fighting chance at least.”

Grinnell and Connor have some work to do, as Rhode racked up 53 points in a single season (shooters need 45 points to qualify for selection) while the two younger athletes are battling to hit that 45-point plateau.

Going up against a four-time Olympian may seem difficult, but Grinnell says she’s prepared.

“It’s a little daunting, but she (Rhode) is mortal,” Grinnell says. “It’ll be a battle to the end.”

Her whirlwind season includes:
• 2010 National championships (Colorado Springs, Colo.), a bronze in open women’s skeet, named to the National open women’s skeet team along with Rhode and Connor
• 2010 Junior Olympics (Colorado Springs, Colo.), silver medalist in women’s skeet
• 2010 world championships (Munich, Germany), the junior women’s silver medalist, beating China’s Zhang Yue in a shoot-off; and a gold medal in team scoring
• 2010 fall selection match (Kerrville, Texas), a gold medal in open women’s skeet

A college student — when she can be Grinnell now lives in Colorado Springs, home to USA Shooting’s Olympic Games training center.

“I can’t take that many classes because I’m gone so much,” Grinnell says, noting that she took two classes this semester. And from December through March, she figures she’ll be in town perhaps a month. That’s why she utilizes online classes and doesn’t load up while she’s in season.

“It (2011) is going to be a pretty hectic year (but) I’d rather be traveling than not traveling,” she says.

Ramping up for the 2010 London Games, Grinnell and Connor will be chasing Rhode as they compete at three key events — World Cup events in Concepción, Chile, in early March; Sydney, Australia, in late March; then to Beijing in April — before the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, this September.

Grinnell says it’s good to have a teammate and competitor as a roommate. She says that Connor, a Winfield, La., native, supports her as she supports Connor.

“We’ll always be a team no matter what,” Grinnell says. “We support each other because if I don’t medal — if anyone has to — I’d rather it be her. That makes us push ourselves harder. It definitely helps to have someone living with you that’s in the same boat.”

Like Connor, Grinnell has a major sponsor in Krieghoff International, a gun manufacturer in Germany. Grinnell now has a custom-made gun that she hopes will help get her to London about 18 months from now.

“I’ve been shooting the gun for a couple of months. It fits great and shoots great,” she says.

Grinnell, a 2010 Port Angeles High School graduate, admits she’s put a lot of things on hold for a while, including having a social life and a full load of college courses. But she says it’s worth it.

“I made a pact with my dad (Kurt) that if I stopped having fun I wouldn’t do it anymore,” Grinnell says.

Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

 

 


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