Sullivan County native named a national champ

Last spring and fall, things didn’t go exactly the way skeet shooter Morgan Craft, of Sullivan County, had hoped.

She struggled at times and wasn’t where she wanted to be with her shooting.

All of that has changed.

On Aug. 10, Craft became a national champion, winning the women’s skeet at the USA Shooting National Championships in Colorado Springs.

“It’s a pretty big relief,” Craft said. “I was extremely excited and relieved at the same time. Last spring and last fall didn’t go the way I wanted and I knew I had to get back on track. I fixed a couple of gun issues and I had to work on executing more then focusing on outcome.”

Last year was a tough year for Craft as she struggled with her form and, at times, her confidence, and failed to make the World Championship team.

Then at Collegiate Nationals, things started to come together, giving her some confidence heading into the summer.

“At the Collegiate Nationals, I took silver and I shot really, really well,” Craft said. “That definitely helped. I knew I could do it. It was a matter of executing it. That was a good start going into the summer.”

Winning nationals is something that is helping Craft gain back that confidence.

“After the fall selection, that was for the World Championship team,” Craft said. “I didn’t make the World Championship team this year and that was very hard. I started to have those negative thoughts. I knew I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t think about the past.

“I had to go forward. I had to move forward. I worked on a lot of positive thinking. The Collegiate Nationals definitely helped. I knew going into this I could do it. I was really focused on process instead of results. That definitely, definitely helped.”

Craft spent her summer at the Olympic Training Center working out and preparing for nationals at the location it was held.

“I was lucky enough, USA Shooting gave me the opportunity to be a resident athlete,” Craft said. “Me coming out there and staying at the Olympic Training Center for the summer, my whole goal was to be able to train out here. My whole summer was completely worth it.”

For Craft just to be invited to train at the Olympic Training Center was special.

“Just the fact you think about that they have the confidence in me that they thought I was a good choice to pick to become a resident athlete for the summer,” Craft said.

Now, Craft heads to college as a national champion.

“To be able to go back to school with this behind me is a pretty good feeling,” Craft said. “It’s pretty awesome.

“The support from my family and friends and all the congratulations is amazing. Both of my parents were here to help me celebrate. I have never been a national champion before and to be one over a five-time Olympian and people who have competed at the World Championships … to be the one that won is pretty awesome.”

The win also puts her in a good position for the upcoming year.

“Actually, I’m sitting very well,” she said. “They are actually taking the points we earn at this match and combining them with the points we are earning at the fall selection match and the top three will go to the World Cups next year. It’s pretty important to place in the top three. I need to go the World Cup and earn some quota spots so we have some spots for the next Olympics.

“I definitely have a good lead on everybody after this. With my scores and how I placed it gave me a lead on everyone else. I have to definitely go and probably place in the top three still. I put a lot of stress on myself in this competition because I had trained there. I knew the field, I felt very confident. It’s not absolutely crucial for me to win again. It’s definitely still a very high goal, there are a lot of talented athletes in the sport. It probably won’t be quite as high pressured as this match was.”

Getting to the World Cup and World Championships are big goals.

“This is exactly where I need to be,” Craft said. “I am in good standing for fall. That shoot will determine World Cup next year and be a part of the qualifications for World Championships next year. To be on track for the Olympic team I need to go overseas and compete in those.

“That’s (World Championships) definitely a priority. I am trying to focus more on the process and process goal wise the World Championships is definitely up there. It’s probably the biggest shoot under the Olympics.”

After winning Nationals, Craft knows she is setting herself up to be in a good position to make the next Olympic team.

“So far I’m right on track,” she said. “I definitely feel a lot better about my goals as far as the Olympic team. I know I can do it and proved it this match. I just have got to keep it rolling.”