FORT CARSON, Colo. -- After two long days of competition, Kayle Browning and Will Hinton came out on top Monday afternoon at the first ever Trap Mixed Team Tryout at the International Shooting Park located on Fort Carson Army base, south of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Thirty-three teams entered the match, and the top two teams were selected to represent the U.S. at the ISSF World Championship in September when the event will be contested at worlds for only the second time.
Trap mixed team – which consists of one man and one woman trap shooter competing on a team for a combined score – made its world championship debut in 2017 and makes its Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Mixed team events will also be held at the world championship and Olympics in air pistol and air rifle. Each event replaced a men’s event in its respective discipline as part of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Agenda 2020 and in an effort to achieve gender equality at the Games.
Joining Browning and Hinton in Changwon, South Korea, will be the second-place team of two-time Olympic trap bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein and men’s trap qualification world-record holder Jake Wallace.
The winning team of Browning and Hinton had never trained together – let alone competed together – prior to this week’s match.
“Honestly, we did not really know each other before this match started,” Hinton said. “We had mutual friends in the same group that knew she did not have a partner and I did not have a partner. We knew we were both good shots and we just went from there.”
Browning and Hinton won both Sunday and Monday’s qualification rounds, as well as both day’s finals. They ended with a total score of 338, 15 points ahead of Cogdell-Unrein and Wallace. Ashley Carroll and Derek Haldeman, last year’s world bronze medalists, finished third, three points behind Cogdell-Unrein and Wallace.
“We have the same shooting style, so it was easy for us to communicate on shooting,” Browning said.
Both Browning and Hinton said they plan on going into the world championship with the same mindset as tryouts.
“Before we went in [to tryouts] we both talked about it, and obviously the goal is win, but more into that we said, ‘Let’s make the final,’” said Hinton, who competes for the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. “We just take it one target at a time and we will get there.”
The pair said the teamwork came easy with Hinton’s military background and Browning’s drive to win.
“It works well,” said Hinton. “We have a mutual goal and we both want to win.”
The world championships will take place from Aug. 31-Sept. 15, with trap mixed team held Sept. 7.
Cogdell-Unrein and Wallace say they look forward to improving and giving it their all at worlds.
“We have been training together for almost seven years so we know each other’s games inside and out,” Cogdell-Unrein said.
Even though they are experienced shooters and long-time teammates they know it won’t be easy.
“There is a lot less room for error when you are competing against the world’s best, and you only have one shot to win a quota for Tokyo.” Wallace said. “We will train together more and work on our final [round] to be able to execute it really well under pressure in South Korea.”
The pair said they are confident they can medal in South Korea and potentially in Tokyo in two years.
“Being a returning Olympic medalist in individual trap, my goal is to make the next Olympic team with my partner and go out there and win a medal,” Cogdell-Unrein said. “I think we are both very capable of that. I’ve proven that, and Jake is one of the top in the world, so I think we have a great chance to win an Olympic medal.”
The new format has caused shooters to shift how they think about the sport.
At the international level, the qualification round consists of each athlete shooting at 75 targets for a total of 150 targets per team. The top six teams advance to the final where athletes alternate in shooting a series of five targets. After all teams have fired at 25 targets, the sixth-place team is eliminated. Eliminations continue after 30, 35 and 40 targets. The remaining two teams then shoot two additional five-target sequences for a total of 50 targets to decide the gold and silver medalists.
“It is a different mental aspect,” said Cogdell-Unrein. “You are not only shooting for yourself, but you are shooting for someone else as well.”
The pair also stressed the importance of trust.
“Having trust in a friendship or a relationship is important because you are not necessarily worried about letting that person down, just doing your best for them,” said Cogdell-Unrein.
“If that relationship is not there in the round, it is really hard to get through in a tight situation,” said Wallace. “Feeding off each other’s energy is such a big thing out there, that you have to be in sync with each other.”
“I think there are two different types of teams. There is a team that just goes out there and says, ‘You do your thing and I do my thing, and at the end if we win that is cool,’” Wallace said. “We are not like that. You have to be a cheerleader, a coach and a fan.”