Staying On Target
Last winter, Corey Cogdell's hopes of making the 2008 Olympic team were not looking good. After the Fall Selection match in August 2007, she was tied for sixth place, eight targets out of first, in women's trap shooting. Only six would advance to the Olympic Selection competition in March 2008, and only one trapshooter would make the Olympic team.
The Olympic Selection match was slated for the Hill Country Shooting Sports Center in Kerrville, Texas, about an hour northwest of San Antonio in central Texas. Cogdell, who had trained there two years ago, knew what she had to do.
Five weeks before the competition, she called her dad, Dick Cogdell, at home in Eagle River, Alaska, and told him she wanted to spend a month training in Kerrville before the match. But she would need to leave the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where her room and board are taken care of, and pay her own way.
"I think that's real smart," her dad told her. "The weather is a whole lot colder (in Kerrville in March) than in Colorado Springs."
She woke up on March 9, the first day of the four-day Olympic Selection trap-shooting match, and smiled when she looked out the window. The wind was blowing, it was raining and 34 degrees.
Corey put on the long johns she had bought for hunting at home in Alaska and "walked out dressed to shoot," she told her dad. Her competitors were "bulked up in warm clothes."
By the end of the first day, Corey had made up the eight-target deficit and led 2004 Olympian Collyn Loper, 298 to 296. Three days later, the Alaska native had taken a 12-target lead and was named as the sole female trapshooter on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.
"It's phenomenal," said Dick on the eve of his daughter's first trip to the Olympics. "Most trapshooting matches are lost or won by one or two targets."
It was the latest success story for Corey who shot into international focus in April 2007, when she earned a bronze medal at her first World Cup, held in Changwon, Korea.
"I had no idea what it would be like," she says, when asked if she had any expectations going to her first World Cup. "I had no idea what kind of scores would be shot overseas. I just went out there and tried to do my best. I had no idea that I was even in contention until my coach told me that I had made the finals."
"If I can do this again next year, I'll be going to the Olympics," she said to herself.
She has had a rapid rise to the top of a sport that's often dominated by older, more seasoned competitors. But it's not surprising, given her background.
She was born on September 2, 1986, the second daughter of Dick and Wendy Cogdell, who lived in Chickaloon, Alaska, over 70 miles northeast of Anchorage. They would later move to Eagle River to be closer to Anchorage.
The son of a Wyoming cowboy, Dick moved to Alaska when he was 7 and learned at a young age to operate heavy equipment. Construction work in Alaska is seasonal, so Dick spent the winters in Hawaii, where he would "go to the beach, body surf, and catch girls."
On a beach near Oahu, he met Wendy, a blonde on vacation from Minnesota. "She was everything I'd been looking for," he remembers.
The next winter, he visited her in Minnesota and 14 weeks later, asked her to come back to Alaska with him. They married two years later and Wendy was a stay-at-home mom after Tanis and Corey were born (Tanis is three years older).
"Wendy was focused," says Dick. "She was determined her daughters would grow up properly."
Dick had learned to hunt and fish from his father in Wyoming and began passing on his knowledge to his daughters when they were still toddlers.
"They started shooting a 22 (rifle) off the deck with me when they were two," recalls Dick (Corey says she was three, not two). "It was something fun to do with me. There was a three-inch wire all the way around the deck, and they would stabilize the rifle barrel on that."
Corey says the gun was called a "22 Chipmunk, a little kid's 22."
Dick hung cans and other targets off nearby trees. "They were hitting them at age two, 75 to 100 feet away," he marvels.
"I fished with my dad since I was 3 or 4 years old," remembers Corey. "Then I started going out hunting with him when I as just a little bit older, probably when I was 7 or 8. We'd go bird hunting, or I'd go out with him when he went moose hunting. ... My dad says the first thing I ever shot was a spruce hen."
Wendy home-schooled both girls, and Dick says they picked up their focus and drive from her. She always told them that there was nothing that she could do that they couldn't too.
On July 15, 1996, Wendy was hit and killed by a car while riding her bike near their home in Eagle River. Tanis was 11, Corey was 9.
The next day, Dick quit his construction job to be a full-time dad. "I asked Tanis and Corey, do you want to go to public school or continue home-schooling," he says. "I told them I'm willing to be your teacher but you have to do the work and be disciplined. And Tanis, you're going to have to help your sister."
As part of their home-schooling curriculum, Dick learned that any kind of lesson in sports counted as a gym credit. He found a $60 shooting course and signed up Corey.
"It was the first time she ever shot a shotgun," says Dick. "She shot 12 birds out of 25."
In 2002, when she was 13, Corey was Alaska State Sub Junior champion (outscoring the junior boy champion by two targets). "By 2004, she probably had 50 to 75 first-place trophies," says Dick.
When she was 16, she was introduced to International Trap at an Olympic Development Camp in Colorado Springs.
In International Style, a 60-foot-long in-ground bunker houses 15 machines that throw targets at 60-80 mph at up to a 45-degree angle left to right. The angle and the height of the targets vary. In American Trap, one machine throws targets at a consistent height at about 45 mph, with the hardest angle being 17 degrees left to right.
"It's a completely different game," says Corey. "I definitely had to put a lot of rounds down range, and I've sought out coaching and done everything that I could to try and learn the different game. Fortunately, I picked up on it really fast."
By the time she was 18, Dick says she knew she could make the Olympics. Her goal: the 2012 Games in London. But first, she would have to find a place to train. Alaska has plenty of moose and bear, but no International Trap shooting facilities. (Coincidentally, Corey shot her first moose this same year - hitting it in the eye from 100 feet.)
With Tanis studying nursing in Texas, Corey packed up and moved to the Lone Star state to train at the High Country Shooting Sports Center. It was February 2006, and she was 19.
Eight months later, at the 2006 Fall Selection, she won the junior women's trap competition and was named to the national team. She asked if she could train at to the Olympic Training Center and moved there in April 2007.
On April 24, 2007, she won the bronze medal in the World Cup. In July 2007, she won another bronze medal, this one at the Pan Am Games in Brazil.
When asked what has led to her rapid ascent, national team coach Lloyd Woodhouse says, "It's called determination, determination and hard practice."
Unlike before her World Cup debut in Korea, Corey does have expectations heading to Beijing. "I have a very good chance of medaling in the Games," she says. "At one point or another, I've beaten just about everybody who will be competing there."
Women's trap has been a medal sport at the Olympics since 2000. In 2004, Collyn Loper finished fourth-the best U.S. finish to date. Kim Rhode won a gold medal in 2004 in double trap, but that event is no longer contested.
The biggest challenge, Corey says, besides overcoming jetlag, will be "not getting wrapped up in the whole Olympic experience and just staying focused."
"I need to have a good solid performance and shoot to the best of my ability," she adds. "If I can do that, I'll definitely come home with a medal."
"She's got a great chance to win this one," says her dad, who will cheer her on from home.
And if she does win this one, will she move home to Alaska? Not yet. Her sight is set on 2012.
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.