Freshman sharpshooter sets sights on nationals
April 25, 2011 —
Athletes often find their callings in strange ways. For Gwin Simpson, National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational qualifier, it all started because she asked her parents for a horse.
“I had always wanted a horse,” said the SVSU freshman, who grew up in Whittemore. “My parents told me that if I got one, there would be coyotes and all these things that came into the yard, so I’d have to know how to protect it.”
Simpson agreed, and with her new horse also came a passion for shooting.
“I was 11 when I got into shooting sports through the 4-H,” Simpson said.
“I started with BB gun, then did .22 rifle and air rifle. I’ve been through all the disciplines within the county.”
But Simpson quickly found the shooting category that suited her best.
“I’m not sure why I got hooked on [the category of] Black Powder,” Simpson said. “I’m the only original member of the club that still shoots Black Powder. And the only girl.”
Black Powder is the category that Simpson will be shooting in when she and three other members of the Sharp Shooter’s Muzzleloader Club from the Iosco County 4-H Program will compete on the national stage. On June 19-24, Simpson and her teammates will shoot at the 2011 National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational in San Antonio, Texas.
Once again, Simpson will be the only girl on her team.
“I would say that the majority of people I shoot with are guys,” Simpson said. “Usually I outshoot them.”
Because there are no separate categories for male and female shooters, Simpson has been competing against men at the county and state level since she joined the Iosco County Team in 2004.
“They’ve gotten to the point where they’ve shot with me for long enough, and a couple of the younger guys have started to come along,” Simpson said.
In 2007, Simpson was named the Michigan 4-H state award winner in shooting sports, an honor she called “one of the bigger awards” that she has received through the program.
Simpson and her partner also took first place at the state championship in the Muzzleloader category in both 2009 and 2010.
In order to maintain success at the county and state level, Simpson practices every weekend, all while working two part-time jobs in Whittemore.
“I go home and shoot in between work,” Simpson said. “To shoot 24 roundsoff of Black Powder, I spent an hour and a half last weekend.”
In addition to target practice, Simpson also practices breathing techniques that are specific to her style of shooting.
“There are different breathing techniques you can do,” the biology major said. “When you’re shooting, you’re actually supposed to take in a full breath, let half out, and then squeeze the trigger and then release it.
“What happens is that when you shoot trap, you become what they call a shotgunner and you don’t think about that. For me, having shot both on a regular basis, I really have to think about how I’m breathing before I take the shot.”
Though Simpson has qualified for the national tournament before, this will be her first year competing at the event.
“I’m looking to go down and have fun, in all honesty,” Simpson said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for me.”