Ashley Carroll and Derek Haldeman love competing against one another in trap shooting, but as they found earlier this month at the ISSF World Championship for Shotgun in Moscow, competing together also has its upside.
With the trap mixed team event making its world championships debut this year in advance of its Olympic debut in 2020, Carroll and Haldeman paired up to win the bronze medal. It was the first senior world championship medal for Haldeman and second for Carroll, who’ve also been dating each other for more than two years.
“Bringing home the medal together, I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Carroll, 22, of Solvang, California. “It’s just one of those things where it’s so neat that we can share that in common, work hard, be able to shoot together as a team and show how much all our hard work has paid off.”
Haldeman, a sergeant who joined the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit out of high school, was actually a men’s double trap specialist but switched to trap after the International Olympic Committee announced it was eliminating three men’s events from the 2020 Olympic program, including double trap, in order to make room for three mixed gender events.
Whereas double trap was highly technical he said, where you hardly move the gun on the first shot then “spot shot” the second, trap is more about “there’s the target; go get it.
“The angles are harder and the targets are faster, so it’s a lot of fun,” said Haldeman, 26, of Sunbury, Ohio. “It’s pretty difficult, so I’ve been working pretty hard to get it figured out.”
Carroll, he said, has been the ultimate teammate, helping him quite a bit during the transition.
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“She works super hard,” said Haldeman, who is stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. “Right now my job is to shoot, so I wake up, go to work and I shoot all day. She’s a little different because she has a job and she goes to school and has to shoot on the side. She’s such a hard worker, and she pushes me like crazy.
“She’s been trap shooting a long time so she kicks my butt all the time, but she pushes me and helps me get better. She’ll give me pointers, and when we’re training together we give each other ideas to try out. It’s just fun to have someone to share that in common with.”
This was Haldeman’s sixth trip to the world championships but first in trap. He shot his way to the men’s final and finished in fifth place. It was the highest finish by an American man since 2006.
In her first trip to the world championships since 2014, when she was just 19, Carroll finished sixth in women’s trap. As the two highest-finishing U.S. shooters, Carroll and Haldeman were paired together for the mixed trap event.
The two enjoy a friendly rivalry, Carroll said, and every time they shoot in a match they wants to beat the other’s score. Often times, as was the case at this year’s national championships, where each won a gold medal, they tie.
In the first round of qualifying for the mixed team event in Moscow, they both shot a 24 out of 25, but then in the second round Carroll shot 22 while Haldeman shot a 25. In the bronze-medal match against Australia, Haldeman shot a 19 and Carroll a 22 to win 41-38.
“He was like, ‘When I need you to shoot just remember I gave you a 25 when you shot 22,’” said Carroll, who also brought home a women’s trap team gold medal. “Then in the final I shot really good and he was outstanding as well, but that’s what being a team is about is being able to be there for each other and push each other. We definitely push each other because I don’t want him to beat me. He feels exactly the same way about me.”
Haldeman has dreamed of going to the Olympics since before joining the Army in 2011, and fell just short of making the team that represented the U.S. in Rio in 2016. The U.S. hasn’t had a quota spot in men’s trap since Beijing in 2008, Haldeman said, so part of the focus in advance of 2020 will be earning a place at the table.
Carroll said she learned a lot from the last quad, from gaining experience in international competition to not letting herself look too far down the road and instead staying focused on the next match, whatever it may be. For that reason, she said, she’s trying not to get too far ahead of herself thinking about 2020.
“I’m honestly just trying to take it year by year, because you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I do hope (Derek) makes the Olympic team, because that would be awesome. I want him to dominate. And it would be awesome if those were the cards we were dealt that we were both able to go. It would be outstanding to have someone there who I trust, who I can talk to and who can calm me down because he definitely does help me calm down.”
Haldeman said he’s definitely thought about what it might be like to both shoot in the Olympics and perhaps even together.
“Obviously that’s the main goal,” he said. “I can’t imagine how awesome it would be to be there at the same time and get to compete in the same event.”
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.