Student aims for Olympics

When talking about accomplishments that someone makes behind the barrel of a shotgun, most people talk about the deer, ducks and even squirrels they have shot.

However, freshman Jeff Williams tells stories of shooting clay pigeons.

“I started off when I was nine years old in a small 4H club in south Texas,” Jeff said.

Zane Williams, Jeff’s mother, described his beginnings in the sport.

“Jeffrey is the third child of six. He had already proved himself to be a good athlete in Little League Baseball. Yet baseball was hectic for our family. With other sons competing as well, we were divided as a family going to different practices and games.

Jeff’s father heard about the shooting sports program through the local 4-H club and decided to enroll all their sons so they could be together as a unit.

“My first initial thought was that I hoped we were making a wise decision since Jeffrey loved baseball so much and was so talented in it,” Williams said. “I was also going to miss watching him play because he was so fun to watch. Yet I agreed with my husband that this was best for the entire family and it was.”

There are several different categories in clay pigeon shooting: five stand, walk through, sporting clays, skeet and trap. Skeet and trap each have two different leagues: American and international.

“Jeffrey’s hand and eye coordination are natural,” Williams said. “The hardest thing we experienced as he began his shooting career was, after the first year, we realized that Jeffrey was left eye dominant. It was hard at first but he was able to master it. I am still amazed at the number of targets Jeffrey can hit before missing one.”

Jeff is an active member of the National Sporting Clays Association, the National Skeet Shooting Association, and the American Trap Association.

Each year there is an opportunity to sign up for camps held at Texas A&M for shooters to come and have further training. Tommy Allmand, a shooter who competed in the 2004 Olympics, saw Jeff and recruited him to the camp.

“We also saw his potential and were excited for him to have an opportunity for him to be trained under Olympians,” Williams said.

At this camp, three different Olympians coached Jeff. After seeing his potential, they encouraged him to shoot at a preliminary try out for the Olympics. He was close to making the team but needed more training in the international skeet and trap formats. Jeff was accustomed to shooting only American skeet and trap. His net preliminary tryouts were just short of making the team.

“Jeffrey says by basically one target,” Williams said.

“At the last preliminary tryouts, the third of three rounds before they select the Olympic team, I missed my last shot,” Jeff said.

“You can’t miss a shot at this point.”

“In 2009 I won the Texas State Championship. It lasts one week, a different event each day,” Jeff said.

In the last event, trap, he had a score of 339. At that point he needed a perfect 100. His opponent had a score of 343. In the end the person with the closest score to 450 wins. Jeff won with a score of 439 to 435.

Jeff became the top gun in the state of Texas in 4-H in his division having the highest combined score in six categories including the international events. The event that clinched this title was American trap where he shot a straight 100.

“I could not even watch because of the pressure, so I chose to stay under a pavilion and pray,” Williams said. “My mother would call me after each round of 25 to tell me how he was doing. It was exciting to see him accomplish this exciting feat.”

Jeff had sponsors from sporting companies such as Oakley and Bretta.