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Senior Ian Dupre trained in Har­risburg, Penn­syl­vania at Key­stone Shooting Park, the home range for his inter­na­tional summer team. Ian Dupre | Courtesy

Before senior Ian Dupre takes a shot, he touches the barrel of his Perazzi shotgun to a pad and wiggles his feet. When he’s ready, he puts the gun to his shoulder and leans in.

“Pull.” Within a seventh of a second, he aims and shoots at a target hur­dling at 70 miles an hour. The clay target shatters, and the shot echoes over the dead trees lining the open field.

Four more shots, and then he walks to the next station, wig­gling his feet, set­tling into his groove — one he said took three years of com­pet­itive shooting to find.

“I have a very con­sistent and set routine, phys­i­cally, and that helps me keep my mental game con­sistent through the entire round,” Dupre said. “This game is all about focus. You want to do it the same way every time.” In a com­pe­tition, he’ll repeat the same routine 124 more times.

“It helps to be mellow,” he said. For a game that plays intense mind games, Dupre lets off a laid-back vibe. While other shooters try too hard, his coach Allen Chubb said Dupre doesn’t put himself into any kind of con­tor­tions.  

“When you’re with Ian, you could set a grenade off next to him and he’d go ‘Oh, how ’bout that,’ which is a good thing — it works to his advantage,” Chubb said. “He’s not very emo­tional, but he’s pretty deter­mined.”  

It shows: Dupre doesn’t flaunt it, but he’s ranked first of 311 ath­letes by USA Shooting, the national gov­erning body for Olympic trap shooting. He’s also com­peted in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and France because Chubb — a former world-class athlete himself — said he firmly believes Dupre needs inter­na­tional expe­rience to prepare him for the com­pe­ti­tions that lead to the 2020 Olympic-qual­i­fying World Cham­pi­onships in South Korea.

“The only way you can learn how to win is to be in com­pe­tition,” Chubb said. “Training is one thing, but when the pressure is on, learning how to win is some­thing you can only win in a Grand Prix or World Cup atmos­phere.”

In Italy, Dupre has had the chance to meet and train with Gio­vanni Pel­lielo, who is “arguably the best shooter in the world,” Dupre said. Pel­lielo is a premier Olympic trap shooter who has com­peted in seven Olympic games and ranked second and third in four of those seven.

By shooting and com­peting abroad, Dupre ben­efits from what Chubb calls “reverse training”: a way of less­ening the initial intim­i­dation shooters rep­re­senting the U.S. face. He hopes that each trip will facil­itate quick adap­tation to a myriad of con­di­tions — weather, lighting, time change, dif­ferent ammu­nition, culture, lan­guage, and food — for Dupre and his team­mates.

But Dupre admitted he didn’t need to travel to train in adapting to fickle weather con­di­tions: “Luckily, I’m on a team in Hillsdale, Michigan, so I get lots of practice in bad weather con­di­tions. I do pretty well com­pared to everyone else on bad weather days,” he said.  

According to Dupre’s coach, devel­oping an Olympic athlete takes between six and eight years. He said these ath­letes go through all of this with the under­standing that even winning an Olympic gold medal won’t translate to a financial boon because they play a less-popular sport.

“You want to do it because you want to be the best in the world,” Chubb said.  And in Chubb’s eyes, Dupre has the drive to overcome mental, physical, spir­itual, and financial exhaustion to accom­plish that.

Another chal­lenge is over­coming the shock and awe of being abroad. Even though Dupre was sur­rounded by Italian culture and food (“You can’t get a bad meal in Italy, which is pretty great”) and Swiss stag­gering prices and natural beauty (“It’s crazy expensive, but it’s def­i­nitely the most beau­tiful”) he has to focus com­pletely on the target because there is work to be done.

According to Hillsdale College shooting teammate senior Kie Kababik, Dupre has the drive toward inter­na­tional com­pe­tition nec­essary to travel and remain focused on success.

“Whenever I shoot with Ian, it really brings out a com­pet­i­tiveness because he’s just so into it,” Kababik said. “He’s going to do the best he can every time, and it just makes you want to do the same thing. He really brings out the same intensity in everybody.”

Dupre began shooting shotgun com­pet­i­tively as a sophomore in high school, com­peting through the summer with a high-school team. His senior year, he chose to spe­cialize in inter­na­tional trap, a game outside of col­le­giate sports.

“The attraction was pretty much because it was an Olympic sport,” Dupre said. “I also like the fact that it’s really chal­lenging.”

The chal­lenge in inter­na­tional trap differs from the chal­lenge of American trap.

In the U.S., com­petitors go for per­fection, he said. In American skeet and trap, com­petitors — like his teammate Kababik — have to vie for perfect scores to win or make it to a shoot-off. In inter­na­tional trap, however, targets move faster and at harder angles, so hitting every target is tougher.

“Shooting a 95/100 is an amazing score that would win you a medal at an inter­na­tional com­pe­tition, whereas a 95/100 in the states is, ‘Thanks for showing up, have a nice drive home,’” Dupre said.  

In addition, inter­na­tional trap, espe­cially in Italy, has a much larger fol­lowing, more ranges, and larger com­pe­ti­tions than in the U.S. The sport’s heightened pop­u­larity ups the com­pe­tition, but Kababik said this doesn’t daunt Dupre.

“He’s very intense, but very calm,” Kababik said. “Going into the last event, he knew he had to shoot a certain score to be eli­gible for an All-American position, and when I asked him about it, he said ‘Well, it’s just going to happen.’”