A perfect performance can be a lot to ask, even of an elite athlete and two-time Olympic trap shooter such as Corey Cogdell-Unrein.
After four dropped targets in the first two rounds at the ISSF World Cup season opener in Acapulco, Mexico, earlier this week, Cogdell-Unrein knew she had to be perfect in the third round. If she wasn’t, she’d have no chance of making the final in the first world cup match of the year.
Perfection was exactly what she delivered. Cogdell-Unrein went on to win a five-way shoot-off to get to the semifinal, then had to win another shoot-off against teammate Kayle Browning to reach the gold-medal match. There, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist defeated Australia’s Laetisha Scanlan 13-9 and earned the United States its first quota spot in women’s trap for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
“I think the majority of the time I do extremely well under that kind of pressure,” said Cogdell-Unrein, 28, a native of Eagle River, Alaska, now living in Denver. “I’ve been shooting Olympic-style trap for almost 10 years, and it definitely comes with a lot of practice. I’ve gone in and crumpled and learned from that and grown as an athlete, and I think the last couple years I’ve really done well under that extreme pressure and risen to the top. That just comes with experience, really, and getting that mental fortitude.”
|Corey Cogdell-Unrein poses for a photo with husband and Denver Broncos defensive tackle Mitch Unrein pose for a photo at Mile High Stadium.|
Marriage has changed the way she approaches shooting, she said, partly because of the unconditional love and support she has from Unrein and partly because of the financial stability. Where once her life revolved around shooting, Cogdell-Unrein said, it no longer defines who she is.
“It’s given me a kind of freedom to go out and compete just for me and do it because I want to do it and I want to be a champion, not because I have to be able to pay bills or prove something,” she said. “I feel like at this point I’ve already proved it, and now I can do it for me.”
Last year wasn’t all positive for Cogdell-Unrein, however, or at least it didn’t feel that way at the time.
After being named USA Shooting’s 2013 Shotgun Female Athlete of the Year, Cogdell-Unrein was left off the world cup team in 2014 following seven straight years on the roster. It wasn’t easy sitting at home instead of competing against the best the world has to offer.
Assistant national team coach Jay Waldron said that while it wasn’t the result Cogdell-Unrein wanted, the experience may have helped.
“In a way it made her realize that it takes total focus, and it kind of re-honed that a little for her this year, really,” he said. “What I’ve seen is she’s totally focused on what needs to be done and where she’s going and how to get there. It’s not a given, you still have to pay your dues.”
Cogdell-Unrein continued to compete in the United States and shot extremely well. Not only did she win her second national trap shooting title at the USA Shooting National Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in August, but she also set a meet record by hitting 241 out of 250 targets.
Missing out on the world cup season was bittersweet, Cogdell-Unrein admitted, but it allowed her to plan her wedding while stepping back and reexamining her career and what gives her that competitive drive.
That drive, Waldron said, is one of her greatest strengths.
“She’s so driven to the end result,” Waldron said. “She’s one of those people who stays on the range and works extra hard, she’s very focused when she trains and she has a little fierceness to her. She gets in competition mode, and where some people get scared and back down, that’s when she comes out fighting and gets better. That’s what gives her her edge. She thrives on competitive pressure.”
Now that Cogdell-Unrein earned one quota for Team USA, she cannot earn another. She can still help her team secure the second quota, however, if she wins gold or silver, because the quota would then go to the silver and bronze medalists at qualifying meets.
That, she said, is her first priority. It would be the first time the United States would send two women to the Olympic Games in trap shooting.
Her second priority is to earn enough points in the coming year to earn an automatic position on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Cogdell-Unrein believes that with the help of USA Shooting’s national shotgun head coach Todd Graves and his staff that her best is yet to come.
“I think my mental maturity and my technical maturity as an athlete has really blossomed in the last couple years and I really just have a good grasp on what I need to do to be compete and be the best,” she said.