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King William's Sam McInteer, 15, is a nationally accomplished trap and skeet shooter
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King William's Sam McInteer, 15, is a nationally accomplished trap and skeet shooter

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‘Pull!”

Pause.

Bang!

The rhythmic nature of trap and skeet shooting is one of Sam McInteer’s favorite aspects of the sport she has fallen in love with. McInteer, 15 and a rising sophomore at King William High, has been shooting ever since she was old enough to hold a gun and go hunting with her father, Jim.

But it wasn’t until a little more than a year ago that McInteer’s competitive career really took off. Over Fourth of July weekend, she competed in the Virginia Stage Shoot in Winchester, winning the state handicap championship over 187 other competitors of varying ages and shooting classes.

Samantha McInteer, 15 year old shooting champion

McInteer broke 98 of 100 targets from the 19-yard line, and said, that day, she found the coveted “zone” of complete focus that all athletes strive to capture.

“It’s just nothing but you, the gun and the bird,” she said as gunshots echoed in the background around Conservation Park of Virginia in Charles City, where McInteer practices.

“It’s basically like you’re floating on cloud nine, everything just feels like it works, you’re smooth. You just see that site picture every time and it’s great. ... That’s really in my opinion what every shooter shoots to feel, is to get to that point where it’s just mindless.”

McInteer yells “pull” to initiate the release of her target. Then, after a couple seconds’ pause, the bird pops up, and she pulls the trigger and echoes sound across acres of land. Much of the time, she listens to music which mirrors the rhythm of her task — classical for singles, to calm her down, and AC/DC for doubles, when multiple targets necessitate a faster pace.

The week after the state shoot, McInteer continued her ascension in the sport, this time on a national scale. She arrived at the National Scholastic Clay Target Program Team Championships in Marengo, Ohio, to learn that she’d been named to the National Scholastic Shooting team, one of nine shooters from Virginia to earn the honor.

After competing in seven events throughout a week of competition, McInteer placed third nationally in the Ladies Junior Varsity Handicap Trap event shooting from the 25-yard line, a lengthy distance for anyone, but particularly for such a young shooter. She also placed within the top 13 for American skeet, doubles skeet, doubles and singles trap. There were more than 3,000 students from 33 states competing at the event.

“It kind of got me hooked on it more, I really didn’t want to leave that week,” McInteer said of her experience at the national shoot. “It was really cool to see how many people in the country are involved in the sport.”

At this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the United States mixed trap team earned a bronze medal. Kayle Browning, an idol of McInteer’s, took silver in the women’s trap final, and Amber English won gold in the women’s skeet competition.

Her country’s success this summer amplified McInteer’s drive to continue excelling in trap and skeet shooting. A coach once told her she could one day be good enough to compete in the Olympics.

“After that, the seed was planted in my mind and it’s just what I’ve dreamed of ever since,” she said.

Sam and Jim have always bonded over shooting. Sam’s mother, Nita, has shot from time to time but doesn’t join her husband and daughter on hunts.

“I cook whatever comes home,” Nita said as the family laughed together.

McInteer is a 4.0 student at King William, but said balancing school and shooting has never been too much of a challenge. Her club coaches, Jeff Allen and Margaret Johnson of North Carolina Clay, have been instrumental in McInteer’s development. She’s right-eye dominant and naturally turns the gun when she mounts it, but her stock helps to correct that.

Next up, McInteer has her sight set on the state shoot in September, and hopefully a return to nationals after that. The family added that rising prices of ammunition over the past year have made the sport much more expensive than it used to be, and the national climate surrounding gun ownership is something the community grapples with on a regular basis.

McInteer said shooting has taught her “the responsibility of being able to handle guns safely and knowing they’re not bad things.”

McInteer also works with children at her local youth club, sharing her love for the sport with the next generation.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to be able to tell somebody how to break a bird and to see them put that knowledge to work and see it work for them,” she said as another pair of shots echoed around Conservation Park.

“Just the joy that they experience when they see that broken target, it’s the coolest feeling.”

ZJoachim@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6555

Twitter: @ZachJoachim

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