“I got my first gun, a Remington 20 gauge pump-action shotgun, for Christmas when I was 8 years old,” freshman Tommy Rodgers said. “My dad gave it to me, and wanted me to give it to my kids one day.”
Rodgers began shooting for the Hillsdale shotgun team immediately in the fall. With a spitfire personality and confidence, his specialty lies in trap shooting.
While he’s shot sporting clays with his dad off and on throughout the years, it would be nearly a decade after that milestone Christmas that he would shoot competitively. A tennis player by trade, he put down his racket and pursued a spot on the Grosse Ile high school trap team.
Similar to Rodgers, freshman Anthony LaMacchia began shooting around the age of 9 and continued recreationally with his dad until his second year of high school.
Upon realizing he could compete individually through the National Sporting Clays Association, he signed up and began taking lessons at the Cardinal shooting center near his home in Ohio. But these lessons weren’t enough for him. Freshman Brandon Korhonen called him a “student of the game” and LaMacchia sought professional lessons from elite shooting competitors the summer between high school and Hillsdale.
“Anthony knows the sport of shotgun better than half the people on our team,” Korhonen added.
A newer student of shotgun himself, Korhonen first picked up a shotgun during his freshman year of high school.
“The first practice came and they put an over-under in my hand and said ‘shoot that bird,” Korhonen said. “I must have been decent because I hit the first 20 they threw.”
His persistence during the off-season earned him his first real job at the Multi Lakes Conservation Association. As a trapper, he assisted club patrons by pulling clays, fixing and cleaning machines, and honing his abilities as a competitive shooter.
His training however, would not prepare him for his most daunting meet. The minus 10 degree weather delayed the sporting clay machines, forcing the team to endure a five hour round. A normal round lasts between an hour to an hour and a half. Despite the weather, the team bonded over the experience.
“Afterwards we got to drink hot chocolate and eat pizza,” Korhonen said, “One of the best things about being on a team is being able to complain about the hard times and for a long time.”
In the presence of his team, Tommy experienced his favorite moment of high school shooting.
“On the last day of competitions, I shot 25 straight, then 24 out of 50,” Rodgers said.
“When you shoot your first 25 straight in trap or skeet, your team takes the hat you’re wearing,” LaMacchia said. “The team wraps a clay in it and throws it in the air. Everyone has two shots and shoots the hat out of it.”
Rodgers admitted that only the bill of his Disney World hat remained. Both LaMacchia and Korhonen reflected that they still had their hat remnants from the first time they hit the 25 straight milestone.
LaMacchia said his fondest shooting memory was spent with his father. On the field of the Cardinal shooting center, the two faced off during a round of sporting clays.
“Everything about it was just right. I was having a good day, just having fun,” LaMacchia said. “The entire round I was right on his tail, and it eventually came out that I beat him by three or four birds.”
“It was the first time I beat my dad at a round of sporting clays,” LaMacchia said.
Each having unique backgrounds, the shotgun team members had begun to envision what the future would hold for them.
LaMacchia is aiming for the NSCA national championship after Hillsdale, as the next level in place where his shooting career began. Korhonen recognizes the challenge ahead, but hopes to one day hold a spot on the U.S. Olympic shotgun team. Rodgers endeavors to eventually invest in a nice gun collection and enjoy the sport recreationally.
All three agreed that no matter what path they take professionally, they plan to teach their children about guns and continue the great tradition of shooting.