USA Olympic Trap Shotgun athlete shares journey with Rotary Club

Jan. 4—THOMASVILLE- The Rotary Club of Thomasville was treated to an inspiring journey of one young woman on Thursday afternoon, as USA Olympic Trap Shotgun athlete and Camilla resident, Bethany High shared her story on how she became the first female trap shooter in the state of Georgia to the make the USA team.

High grew up attending Hopeful Baptist Church, where her mother was the music director. Every Sunday after church her family would dine with Ray and Angie Shirah. According to High, one afternoon Ray invited her to come shoot clay targets back at his peanut fields. The rest was history.

"He sat down on this manual target thrower, told me where to look and how to modify... he told me when to pull the trigger, so I did what he said and I was instantly in love with everything about shooting sports," High recalled.

Ray encouraged High to join the 4-H shotgun team and even said he would coach if she joined.

With that in mind, High joined the team with her father and Ray as volunteer coaches.

"We loved every second of it," she said. "I did it for two years and during my second year, I decided to take it more seriously."

During that year, High said she met a coach who introduced her to Olympic Bunker Trap shooting, which piqued her interest. As she continued to train and practice with her new coach, she was flown to Italy for her first international trip.

"I was invited to go to help introduce a new event called the Mixed Team event," she said. "Several people from all over the United States and the world were there. I was shooting alongside Olympians, world champions, and other elite shooters in the industry."

It was easy to see how High was hooked on the sport.

Returning home from Italy, High began to take her training seriously, traveling to the Junior Olympics, National Championships, and any competitions available to her.

For her first time at the Junior Olympics, she placed 4th.

This placement led High to forgo her senior year of high school and enroll in college early so she could focus on shooting.

"I traveled, trained, and loved it," she said.

However, changes came when High moved to a different range and got a new coach, noting it was the best thing for her.

She attended Valdosta State University for one semester before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing her to return home and practice in her grandmother's backyard.

As COVID-19 began to slow down, High transferred to Emmanuel College, where she received a shooting and academic scholarship.

While shooting for Emmanuel's shotgun team, High made her first USA national team.

"I was given the opportunity to travel to the Junior World Championships in Lima, Peru," she said. "I had a rough first round of the competition because I felt the weight of the USA vest that I was wearing."

High went on to explain that wearing the USA vest was a double-edged sword.

"To wear the USA vest was an honor, but it was very heavy because of the scrutiny you were now under," she said. "There are a lot of foreign shooters who aren't always nice to people with a USA vest."

However, High did not let that deter her. On day two of the competition, High shot her first perfect round, making the winning shot for the USA and winning the gold world championship medal.

The following year as a senior at Emmanuel, she traveled to Kerrville, Texas, where she made the USA Elite team once more. While on the USA Elite team, she traveled to the World Cup in Suhl, Germany.

Upon graduating from Emmanuel in May 2022, High began Occupational Therapy graduate school at the University of St. Augustine. Although a full-time student, High is still competing to earn a spot on the 2024 Olympic team.

To make the team, shooters must have a combined score from two competitions. The first competition took place in Hillsdale, Michigan in May 2023 and the second one will take place in Tucson in March 2024.

"Right now, I am in a good place after Hillsdale and training for Tuscon," High said.

Despite High's accomplishments, it is not guaranteed the USA will have a quota of two women trap shooters. In order to receive an invitation to send their athletes, the USA must win the World Championships or Pan Am Games. As of right now, the USA has only received an invitation for one female bunker trap shooter.

However, High said she is hopeful the team will earn another spot.

"If we are unable to and I find myself just short of making the Olympic team, I will look forward to the 2028 year in Los Angeles, California," she said. "I am going to continue to strive for a goal I have been working toward."

Regardless of what happens in March, High said it has been an honor to represent the USA in the world championships and be considered the only female trap shooter in the state of Georgia who has made the USA team as well as the only one who is competing at USA trap competitions.