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A Native shooting star

PORT ANGELES, Wash. – Jaiden Grinnell, 17, clenched the top women’s score in International Skeet at the Miami Cup Skeet Championship in Miami, Fla. Feb. 8. She traveled to the Sunshine State with the United States National Shotgun Team.

This latest win marks one of many for Jaiden, an enrolled member of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and junior at Port Angeles High School. She has racked up enough medals to weigh her neck down, thanks to her solid shooting skills at skeet competitions across the United States, and abroad.

Four months prior to her win in Miami, she placed third in the open category at the USA Shooting Shotgun Fall Selection in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sept. 14 – 16. This secured her a spot on the USA team to compete at the 2009 World Shotgun Championships in Maribor, Slovenia this August. She placed first in the junior category at the event.

Jaiden’s success comes from her ability to focus on clay objects and repeatedly shoot them out of the sky. This ability, coupled by repeatedly good showings at competitions, has given her the opportunity to train with the U.S. Olympic Training Team in Colorado Springs to prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

But it won’t be an easy decision, as she’s also received a letter of acceptance from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. “They carry a lot of prestige for the Army,” she said. “Some of the best shooters in our country are from that unit.”

She has plans to spend time with both entities this summer before making her final decision. “They are both terrific opportunities, so it’s going to be a difficult decision.”

Additionally, numerous colleges and universities are vying for her to join their ranks, and dangling scholarships almost too good to pass up. When she’s ready to enter college, she plans on studying veterinary medicine.

Jaiden began shooting with her father when she was 12. Kurt Grinnell said he immediately took notice of his daughter’s talent. In his youth, he shot in both skeet and trap competitions.

From there, he took her to visit his friend Matt Dryke, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, and a three-time world champion. Dryke owns the Sunnydell Shooting Grounds in Sequim, Wash. and is considered one of the best skeet shooters in the world.

Kurt said after Jaiden underwent some basic testing, from naming off a mix of letters and numbers flashed before her eyes without error to shooting a perfect round of skeet, Dryke confirmed that Jaiden had the talent to excel. He became her coach and mentor.

A skeet range has seven shooting stations set up in a semi-circle, and an eighth station halfway between one and seven. From each station, the shooter tries to hit clay targets ejected at high speeds from a high and low tower, located at each end of the semi-circle.

The scoring and number of rounds used per match depends on whether it’s the American or International version of the sport.

Jaiden was at training camp in Texas the first week of April, and recently competed in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Zone 3 Skeet Championship in Fort Benning, Ga. She’s also slated to shoot for the U.S. team at the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup 2009 in Munich, Germany in May, then onto the ISSF World Cup Shotgun competition in San Marino in June. San Marino is a small, landlocked country surrounded by Italy.

Kurt, a tribal councilman for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, said Jaiden has immense family and community support, but it’s ultimately up to her to pursue the sport. “I would like to take more credit, but when you get a young person so dedicated, it’s really up to them. She trains all the time, and quit all other sports.”

As for publicity photos, Jaiden has to look no further than her mother Michele Hayman, owner of Ever After Photography, who has snapped numerous photos of her daughter’s competitions, as well as some professional studio photos.

Hayman said, despite her daughter’s whirlwind schedule and success, she handles herself with grace and dignity. “She respects her competitors and is genuinely happy for their successes, even when they beat her.”

Jaiden is amazed when she reflects on the history of her shooting career. She credits dedication, hard work and sacrifice to her success, and firmly believes that her peers can achieve success the same way.

“With the risk of sounding cliché, if you really want something, you have to work hard and give all of yourself to it. If you’re willing to do that, then it will definitely happen.”