Craft eyes Olympics after winning national title

TOWANDA – Three years ago, Sullivan County graduate Morgan Craft knew she was going into a college powerhouse in shotgun sports.

Lindenwood had won eight straight championships before she got there, and Craft was hoping to be able to help the school continue that streak.

Three years later, the streak is at 11 straight after Craft helped the program win the title recently.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Craft said. “Being able to be a part of the team, knowing we are continuing our run on our 11th straight national championship. To be one of the upperclassmen especially and kind of be looked up to is great.”

Each year, Craft has seen the pressure increase as the win streak continues but she also has watched as the team keeps improving.”

“The more we get under our belt, the more pressure I feel like we have,” she said. “You can see other teams improving. They have a lot of talent too. We keep getting more recruits though, too. I have a whole lot of confidence in our team moving forward.”

While she has confidence in the team, for a while Craft wasn’t as confident about her own shooting. However, that changed at nationals.

“To be honest, these past couple months I kind of have been on a rocky road,” she said. “I wasn’t shooting great. At nationals, I shot really well. Really, I shot the best I have in a while. I can’t explain how happy I was to get out of that rut and prove to myself that I can do it. It felt great to be a part of winning the national championship.”

The struggles for Craft cost her a chance to travel with the U.S. for competitions this summer.

“There were two national competitions for spots to travel overseas this summer,” Craft said. “I didn’t quite make the final and I wasn’t very happy with myself.”

Craft knows it’s crucial to carry over the shooting from nationals into upcoming competitions.

“It’s super important,” she said. “We have the USA Shooting nationals in August. I am very motivated to keep this streak going. Starting in August, they start to keep score and choose who goes on to the World Championships in 2015.”

Craft also knows that tournaments overseas are now more important as U.S. success can lead to a second spot for the U.S. at the next Olympics.

“Potentially, if we win enough overseas, we could send two women to the Olympics instead of just one,” Craft said.

After being the alternate for the last Olympic team, Craft knows how important two spots could be for the country.

“It’s a huge step,” she said. “Last time I was right there, I was second in line. Now I just have to really push and get the top two spots again.”

Right now, Craft is working to balance her school work, shooting for her college and also national competitions as she hopes to make next year’s World Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“It’s always been difficult,” she said. “I try not to completely overload my school work. I am a full-time student, but I’m taking 14 credits right now. I don’t try and take 18 or 20 credits to overdo it. To be honest, shooting is pretty much my No. 1 priority. The dream of making the Olympics is pretty dang important. I have to be self disciplined.”

After she graduates Craft wants to continue her education but she also needs to take some time to work toward the 2016 Olympics.

“I will graduate in the Spring of 2015,” she said. “I do plan on going to graduate school, but I think I will wait until after the summer of ’16. I plan to take that year off school and try and train my hardest.”

With the World Championships and Olympics coming up Craft knows how crucial this time is.

“It really will be tough,” she said. “Trying to get points and trying to win spots for the team. It all boils down to the next year and a half. It’s a lot of mixed emotions. I’m very excited for senior year. I can’t believe I’m already going to be a senior. I am really loving my classes and I am working the hardest I ever have for shooting.

“It’s a pretty important time, but also very exciting,” she added.