Ohio State Championhsip

June 22-29, Marengo, OH

Monday morning, after packing quickly, I was really happy to have (for once) someone else doing my job: guiding Florin out of the campsite. Amazingly enough, we were out Elysburg at 2 PM – exactly the time I hoped for. This means we are getting better and better at packing up and moving towards new adventures.

The ride to Ohio was painfully long and I am grateful for Garret’s presence – he played games with our talkative son and he probably was gladder than we were to get to our destination 🙂

We got to Marengo (after a quick detour on the highways; our GPS is playing tricks with us) at about 11 at night, which is, again, a record. We like to pull into Marengo around midnight, even later, and wake Greg (the campground manager) up. Luckily for us, he loves us (still). This time it was no need to wake anybody up (except, most probably, all the neighbours), we knew our campsite number and we pulled right in. Again I was happy to have someone else to guide Florin in (and I laughed a lot the next morning when our left side neighbours came in and I had to witness their wonderful conversation… until a wife needs to help her husband to back up a trailer in a campsite you don’t know if you have a solid marriage or not, trust me!). And as Garret already mentioned – we unpacked really quickly and it was time to relax, have a bite and enjoy the night.

Waking up in the morning I enjoyed the calm and quiet – everyone was still asleep and I could have a couple of hours for myself; a luxury I cannot afford too often, especially when camping 🙂

After an eventful classification – they managed to put me in AA for singles and doubles, based on the only shoot they had in their databases for the year (my best scores for the year so far) so we had to go through lots of fun to have me ‘downgraded’ where I belong, in class B. Then we had to go through some other layers of God-knows-what to have Florin classified, the same lady that was in PA laughing at us and telling ‘see, I told you to keep up the receipt!’… Then we had the kids classified as well and another commotion about the colour of the cards… plus the eternal question of a new shooter: ‘To Penalize or Not To Penalize… this is the question’. After about half an hour all as well, we were classified and we decided to just enjoy the day and not shoot any of the events. A smart decision, considering the amount of sleep we all had and the laziness that I (at least) enjoyed. We just squadded both Garret and me for the rest of the week and walked on the vendors’ rows. After a quick stop by Keith Heeg’s trailer, to have Phil stock fixed, we got back to the campsite. William, as usual, already found himself 2 boys to play with – the other grandchildren of the same grandmother he played at when we were at Cardinal Classic, last August. He had a blast – our camper was parked right at the playground, he could be in the playground all the time without losing sight of the trailer. While Garret and William were enjoying an afternoon of fishing with hotdogs, Cody came by and we were again the big family of trapshooters we’ve been looking forward to all winter long.

At Cardinal Centre there is no time to waste and no time to get bored: this year they added 3 more banks, to a total of 12 (the same number as in Elysburg). They can run it a bit more efficiently because they start at 8 and use all banks at 8. In PA they start at 9 and they aren’t able to use 4 of the banks until around 10 am, because of the position towards the rising sun. This way, although the shoot was larger in OH than in PA (as expected, mostly because of the weather in PA and the economy being what it is this year) – most of the days the shooting was done by 4 pm, the shoot-offs by 5 so basically you had lots of time on your hand. But with all the games, fishing, pool and excitement – each day we found ourselves around 1-2 am still talking, still enjoying the night and our friends 🙂

And then the Ohio State shoot started for us: Garret shot all events except the singles class championship, I shot everything, and Florin picked a few events for himself as well. It’s always amazing when you shoot at different venues how you need to get accustomed to the new background (pretty hard in Marengo), the targets and their setup (very different from Elysburg), the traps houses themselves, and all sorts of conditions. Now in Marengo, everything is excellent, but the background is not the easiest to shoot with. Mind you, Leo the Great (aka Leo Harrison III) was able to miss exactly 4 (as in FOUR) targets out of the 1,200 (as in ONE THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED). And he probably shot all over the place, it’s hard to imagine him or Harlan picking up banks 🙂 But for us, laymen and women… well… background has something to say still. On one of the events, one of the handicaps – I could not even blame the background for my abysmal scores. It was one of those moments when nothing comes together… I looked hard at the poor targets (which, by the way, were flying slow and nicely), I could see the exact same picture I was accustomed to and… now I smoke one, now… I heard ‘Looooost’… oh, well.

On Thursday the rest of the MacDonald clan arrived – with the rain, with a terrible storm, in fact. Luckily for all of us involved the rain poured on us late in the evening – just enough to have the adults (minus the young people’s mom, aka as Alicia) trying to prepare dinner in the kitchen tent while the youngster ate the above-mentioned dinner in the trailer, and watching a movie. Now, mind you, when we left home it was pretty crazy so the only movies we had were William’s movies. Apparently, not an issue for the older ones – all 4 (Chloe, Garret, Cody, and William) watched ‘Cars’ and laughed heartily at MacQueen’s gimmicks. I was pleasantly surprised to see all of them (the difference in age is 10-11 years!) equally enjoying the movie and the evening.

All in all, the Ohio shoot was a success – I know the young ones don’t think so, I for one, was tempted to think otherwise as well… until I compiled the averages. And what do you think? While the whole week I was sure I was shooting poorer than in PA, it turned out that on average I did better…

This brings me to the morale (of course, what will be a blog entry w/o morale?!): never despair! And always look at the big picture.

So what have I learned from Ohio? Never count yourself off a race after you miss one target. Why? Because despair will only make you miss more and more and more and… well, you got the picture. This one comes in handy with the ‘never count your targets’ but we all know it’s next to impossible to do that 🙂 although we all (right?!) try hard not to.

Are there any other lessons? There always are, even when it’s hard to pinpoint specific ones. The main lesson for me would be: be happy. Which I managed to implement for 1,100 targets, but I failed miserably on one hundred 🙂 as we all know – you can’t always have everything. But you can always work hard and try to enjoy yourself. And that’s the most important part to remember: we are in this sport for the fun, for the camaraderie and friendship, for the joy. We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport – there are people out there that might be more talented than any of us, but have no opportunity to practice, to buy themselves a gun or shells, or to go out of province and compete with the best of the best.

Just think for a moment: at these 2 competitions we competed along with the best of the best in Pennsylvania & Ohio (which are probably the best 2 states in ATA 🙂 ); we had the opportunity to watch (or simply be in the same competition) with the best in ATA: Leo Harrison, Harlan Campbell, the Ohyes, our own Paul Shaw, Stephanie Sandler, the Vendels, Brad Heathly, and list goes on and on and on. We met and befriended All American juniors (Cody & Daryl and many others); we met and befriended lots and lots of nice people. If for nothing else we should be grateful for that. But there is much more: it’s our own individual progress. We all progressed from what we’ve been shooting at home to Pennsylvania, and then some more to Ohio (for the ones that competed in both state shoots). We shot at the largest 2 shoots in ATA (other than the Grand). We shot at the 2 best facilities in North America. And the experience we gained it’s priceless.

I, for one, am happy: with the progress of all of our students, with my own progress. I am happy I met all my friends again and I made some more.

What are you happy about?!

Until next time – keep your head on the stock and your eyes on the rock. And remember: See, Smooth, Smoke, ONE!


Pennsylvania State Championship

Penn State, June 15-21 @ Elysburg, PA

The day finally came to leave for my favourite trapshooting place: Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

After a somewhat hard start (I decided to get sick on Saturday / Sunday and most of Monday) we managed to get the camper ready and leave Burlington around 5 PM on Tuesday. Which is exactly how Florin ‘loves’ it: to drive the trailer at night 🙂 Not only we had to pass the mountains at night, but we had my old GPS only and at times it decided to take strange, non-existent routes. Add to that some detours (it’s road fixing season everywhere) and you had a very nice mix. All in all, we arrived at our campsite at the beautiful hour of 1:40 in the morning. Like the seasoned campers, we are we had everything in order in less than 2 hours… which left me with about 4 hours of sleep.

The first day of our PA adventure arrived with some clouds and high spirits – there is something in the Elysburg’s air that makes me happy no matter what the conditions are. I haven’t decided yet if it’s the air or the people, but I tend towards the people. I barely left our campsite, walking with William towards the clubhouse, when we met some friends. And once we got to the clubhouse I started to stop every 2 meters to greet someone. I managed to classify and squad myself for the day and then I lost William to some friends, but that’s pretty much how our lives go while we are camping: the child is always finding some people to take care of him 🙂

The events of the day went pretty well, I remembered the feeling of being on the line in Elysburg and I enjoyed my day a lot.

On Thursday the rest of the team gathered and our campsite became the ‘base’ of all operations. As the day advanced it became crazier and crazier, and we were still having lots and lots of fun, on and off the line. Mother nature was nice enough to keep the day cloudy only, without any showers or storms. At one point we tought the rain will come, as the left-side valley disappeared in a gray cloud; it proved to be not a storm cloud, but some fog. One has to learn where the storms are coming from and we had learned last year for both Ohio and Pennsylvania how to ‘predict’ the immediate local weather.

The evening brought everyone around the campsite and hopefully, we haven’t bothered our neighbours too much (we have learned that lesson as well, last year, in New York). And from then on the days are a blur: lots of shooting, lots of friends, lots of caring for the ones new to Elysburg, and lots and lots of fun.

Some of us shot better than others, some enjoyed it more than others, but all in all, I believe it was a wonderful trip for everyone. I was impressed again with the youngsters’ shooting and in particular with Matthew. With a gun almost as big as he is and at his very first competition he acted like he’s been doing this for decades. He’s barely a decade old! And because we all were in our gold attire I got numerous ‘Oh, you must be a proud mother’ whenever I watched from the walkway. I was indeed very proud of each and every single one 🙂

Everyone wanted to know what’s with the Gold T-shirts and we explained lots of time who we are and what we do. And most of the time people were very impressed we brought the teams with us.

What did I learn from the events of the week? That once you have the technique you only need a strong mind and a very disciplined one to go forward. I cannot remember the number of occasions when my mind wondered in places it shouldn’t and I still mounted the gun. My best one was when I shot down-the-hill for the first time and on trap 10 B: I had a left target and this is what went through my mind: “oooh, look at the hills, how beautiful they are! And look, some cute butterflies! And look – what is that orange thing… oops… “. What do you do after such a target? You laugh!

But everyone can miss targets (none of us need a lesson in that!) – so how do we break them? By first judging the environment properly – light, wind, height, and speed of targets and adjusting our gun- and eye-hold accordingly. And after that – but being disciplined and following the routine each and every target. Remember – we don’t really need to have to be focused and disciplined for an hour, we just need it for a few seconds, one target at a time. One – it’s always one, the very next one. That’s all we need to focus on: smoking the next target. And how do we smoke ONE target? Well – we all know that and we all did that a number of times before: we get ready, we call, we wait to SEE, we move SMOOTHly, and we SMOKE the ONE target that flies nicely before our eyes.

What else did I learn? That shooting from 24 yards is not impossible! They penalized me (for not having enough targets in the current year) and while I don’t care much about class (penalized to A instead of my usual B), when they send me 2 yards farther it wasn’t a pretty sight (score-wise). My very first impression at 24 was: ‘wow, why is the bead so big? It’s bigger than the target! By the way, where IS the target?!’. My second thought about 24 was: ‘and how does one break targets here?!’ By the end of the competition, even if my scores weren’t stellar, I managed to squeeze a 23 and so I believe that given the proper time I will figure out how to master the 24. After I master the 22, of course!

And what else did I learn? Not really a lesson, not a new one, for sure, but as valuable as any: friends are very good for your health and spirits! The number of people we have laughed with is unbelievable, and the happiness they brought to us is priceless.

The last day of our Elysburg adventure came – the Marinaches gained an extra-son (we kept Garret with us between PA and OH) and the LTS teams gained tons of experience. Because nothing compares to a perfectly ran big shoot and absolutely nothing compares to Elysburg!

So we said our goodbyes, we hugged everyone and promised to see each other again. I then left Florin to check emails while I visited Knobels with my 2 ‘kids’ 🙂 I still have to find out how did Garret enjoy our trip to the amusement park 🙂

Thank you all Learn Trapshooting students who could come and compete – thank you all parents and families for your unfaltering support.
And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all first US competitors! What a wonderful way to start your trapshooting ‘life’!

We’ll see you back in Ohio or Ontario. And to all who couldn’t be here: we have missed you and we hope you’ll be able to make it to the next competitions.

Thank you, Pennsylvania for having us! See you all soon.

P.S. I got a couple of Jones Sodas from the MacDonalds (they always have an endless supply) and although I didn’t get the name of my gun yet, what do you think my messages were?!

One I am still trying to figure out: “The rainbow’s treasures will soon belong to you”.

But the second one speaks of a true trapshooter: “You have a yearning for perfection”. Of course – and for the perfect score 🙂 And who doesn’t? Just ask any trapshooter you know!


Artemis shoot

Having tried to blog about this shoot a couple of times only to be beaten by my connection, it’s a bit hard now to remember all the feelings from last week… and one will understand why: we are now at the end of the PA State shoot, after a week of Elysburg.

But I digress; this is really about Hamilton and Arthemis shoot. As the name shows – it is the Greek’s club and anybody with some knowledge about Mediterranean culture will know upfront that the shoot was more fun than anything. So we ambushed the Greeks in our golden T-shirts and decided to have fun. Except for Phil who was on call and was checking his blackberry between rounds 🙂

We squadded, and we went to our usual school practice trap to wait for the actual shoot to start – we’ve been advised it’s going to be in ‘about an hour’. Oddly enough the round went pretty fast and in almost no time at all, we were all together with yummy souvlaki and even yummier pastry. What does one do when he’s done shooting? He/she shoots some more! Back we went to the school’s trap and practiced some more. Which was very good, because we kept everyone there… why? Well, it turned out that both the LearnTrapshooting’s Juniors (Chloe and Matthew) were in a shoot-off! Imagine young Matthew, barely 10 years old, at his first-ever competition, ending in the shoot-off. Guns got out of their packs & cars, shells in the pocket, vests on – and what do we need to do in a shoot off? Nothing special – we keep doing the same as we do every day: we look to see the target, we move smoothly to it and we smoke one target.

Both Chloe and Matthew were amazing: smoking target after target, with dedication and a huge smile on their face. Now our young students have their first trophy to brag about: Junior Champion at Arthemis shoot!

And so our day went: sunny and full of laughter, with yummy food (thank you, Arthemis!), with happy people and our great team.

Thank you, Artemis, for having us – we had a wonderful day!


Toronto International

The second competition of the season came after a short break – at the beginning of June, when one can expect nice late 20s temperatures, right? Wrong! The forecast was bleak (max of 18, morning showers) and the reality beat it by miles (I don’t believe it ever went over 14, and those showers were scattered throughout the day, and the only good part was that those showers were more like clouds shaking above us.

We met the whole team at Toronto International Trap & Skeet Club (yes, you can figure it was founded and named by young males… all you need is to read the big acronym written … where else could have been more prominent?… on the chimney… in huge letters!) – everyone well dressed and the only specks of gold visible on the hats.

We managed to confuse a few nice gentlemen at the office, luckily for us, they were patient enough to squad our 7 member teams exactly as we planned, no more mishaps this time. By the end of the season, I believe we will get the squading done in less than the usual half an hour it takes now. By the time we have paid everything – it was already time to get on the line and so we did.

The singles – no big surprises. Everyone worked hard, and considering the ‘wonderful’ conditions – everyone did very well. Techniques are being fine-tuned, competition mode is being embraced by everyone; the coach is happy – athletes (hopefully) are happy as well.

The day progressed, and although we were a handful of people (11 squads) – we somehow managed to start the handicap pretty late. Well, it’s actually normal – when you compare our home club to any other club, it’s like Gulliver with the Lilliputians. And if you start doing the math – 11 squads on 2 banks (4 traps) will go well over 3 hours… start around 10 am and you’ll find yourself contemplating the handicap around 2 PM.

This would have been fine and dandy… if the light hadn’t changed suddenly. A very strange one, which made the targets a very muddy gray instead of the beautiful orange they are. Add to this an amazing coldness, and a light breeze and you have the ‘perfect mix’ for such an event. So you prepare yourself, tell yourself all the right things and then call for your target; the target comes out of the trap house, you follow it with your eyes (always with your eyes!) and then… suddenly… where is the target?! it should have been there… but it’s not… and for a few moments, you are wondering, then if you are lucky enough you’ll find it (far, far away) in the sky. In those cases when you aren’t that lucky you take a guess (more or less educated, depending on experience) and shoot in a region where the target should have been. Well – anybody can figure out what such a context can do to your scores. The trick in a case like this (where you have absolutely NO control over the conditions) is to keep it light, and remember you are in for fun. Of course, there would be the special cases when young eyes have no trouble following the target on the gray sky… and those young minds & eyes owners should be grateful for the gift they have been given 🙂 The rest of us – we split in 2: the ones who get upset, and the ones who’ll keep laughing. Luckily for me, nature gave me a sunny disposition so I could keep laughing the whole 4 sub-events. Why? Because while I was missing targets one after another I knew there wasn’t anything in the whole world I could do differently; I was trying my best and that made me happy. That and the odd flying ‘saucer’ I would get every now and then.

And then – the final event, the one I love the most: doubles. Luckily for us – the light changed back to normal, the breeze stopped and somehow the air warmed up as well. We were on the second squad and had the opportunity to watch the master (Paul Shaw) smoking targets on the first squad, right before us. It’s always a pleasure to watch Paul in doubles (it’s a pleasure to watch him in any type of events): he has a very calm way of being and his call is a very the-whole-world-can-be-mine-and-I-have-no-worries ‘Phaaa’. On that first trap, the targets were funny (to say the least), but you can’t do much about them. If you correct one issue, you’ll end up with another. So we simply did what the coach taught us all: we looked for our first target, smoked it, then looked for our second one, and smoked that one too.

So what have we learned from this trip to T.I.T.S.?

First of all – a successful day is measured not by scores, but by accomplishments. And this is how we need to set out goals: towards technique, not towards scores. Like Paul puts it so boldly in the last number (June) of Trap&Field magazine: setting goals in measuring scores is like trying to lose weight by stepping on the scale daily. Diets don’t work; you should not aim to lose 10 lbs but to move towards a more nutritious, more balanced, healthier diet. If you try to break scores, you’ll become tight-up and targets will elude you forever. If you have the proper technique, the proper swing, a fitted gun, and a sunny disposition (as in relaxed) – scores will automatically follow. And sooner than you think!

Second – when it happens to miss targets: slow down. Going faster and faster will just ensure you miss more and more and become frustrated. The opposite is always true: breathe, relax, and wait to see the target. I know I say this a lot – but breathing is, actually, paramount. And if you would take the time to analyze you’ll also realize that most of the time when you go fast you probably hold your breath as well. Breathing is probably the simplest way to ‘fix’ most things.

Third – in conditions less than perfect (wouldn’t be that much fun to have perfect conditions at all times, would it?!) all you can do is enjoy. The more you enjoy, the more fun you’ll have; the more fun you’ll have, well – when you have fun any lesson will be easier to learn.

And last, but not least – get on the line prepared. With all the excitement of the day (and all the buzzing from William) I stepped on the line for doubles and I followed my routine: Squad ready? Marker ready? Let’s see a pair! all the time something was strange, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was the ‘thing’. Well – I mounted my gun, I called for my pair and, like Chloe said ‘boom’… literarily. Not much to do when you still have a second target to blast… so ‘boom’ the second one. Then – ‘BOOM’… Phil’s first shell. The second one – I couldn’t hear much anyhow 🙂 By the time it was again my turn I managed to plug my ears properly. Lesson learned 🙂 And sorry, Chloe, for rushing when it was your turn… usually Chloe is on my right, so I am not accustomed to waiting for a female voice before my turn but after… Anyway, being the nice sport that she is, Chloe wouldn’t be bothered by such a nuisance.

So – another day, another LearnTrapshooting.ca success!

Thank you all again for the sportsmanship you displayed and for the focus and energy you managed to gather and share! I know some of you might be hard on yourself expecting higher scores, but trust me – you should not be. What you should be is proud of yourself: you kept remembering the lessons your coach taught, and you kept listening to his advice during the competition. You delivered your best in the conditions and that’s all it counts at the end of the day.

Remember: relax, enjoy, and have fun!

Looking forward to many days filled with your smiles and laughter!

P.S. These Jones Soda messages seem to be an integral part of the LTS outings… I am going to buy some; maybe I’ll finally find a name for my gun 🙂

P.P.S. To Chloe: beware you are now being used as the ‘example’ in our household. E.g. William doesn’t really care for ham sandwiches (he doesn’t really care for meat that much yet) so last night after I put one in front of him and I got the usual ‘I don’t like this, mama’. Exasperated, I exclaimed: ‘I’ll tell you a secret! This is Chloe’s favourite!’… ‘Mmmm… it’s really yummy, mommy!’