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Eagle River trapshooter gets another shot at Olympic glory

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: May 27, 2016
  • Published May 27, 2016

Corey Cogdell-Unrein, the Eagle River trapshooter who already owns an Olympic medal, will gun for more Olympic glory this summer in Rio de Janiero.

Cogdell-Unrein, the 2008 bronze medalist, will make her third straight trip to the Summer Games after clinching Team USA's lone berth in women's trapshoot this week.

"It's pretty unreal, to be honest," Cogdell-Unrein said Thursday, the day after she won the U.S. Olympic team trials in Tillar, Arkansas. "I mean, I never imagined that I'd be able to say that I'm a three-time Olympian.

"I've been competing for a little more than 10 years now and it's been such an amazing experience. I really feel like I'm coming into the best years of my shooting career."

Cogdell-Unrein, 29, was certainly on fire this week in Arkansas.

She earned a trip to Brazil with a come-from-behind performance, dominating four days of shooting to vault from second place to first place.

Cogdell-Unrein trailed by two points after the first stage of Olympic qualifying, held last October in Tucson, Arizona. She excelled during the second stage of qualifying in Arkansas, where she wound up winning by 15 points — which in trapshooting qualifies as a rout.

"One of the things I really flourished on during this match was once I did get the lead, I really focused on building that lead as much as I could," she said. "I like to put the hammer down when I get that position."

With this week's victory, Cogdell-Unrein becomes one of a handful of Alaskans to qualify for three or more Olympics and the first Alaska-bred athlete to do so for the Summer Games.

Cogdell-Unrein's run of three straight Olympics is impressive by any measure, even more so when you consider that every time she has qualified, there has been only one available berth for the Americans.

This time around, it's because of Cogdell-Unrein that the United States gets to send anyone to Brazil in women's trapshooting. She guaranteed a berth for Team USA by winning a World Cup match in Acapulco in March of last year.

Had any other American women registered a top-two finish in subsequent World Cups, the United States would have earned another berth. But none did, which upped the pressure when it came time for the U.S. team trials.

"It was a mental challenge for me knowing I had won the quota," Cogdell-Unrein said. "I was the woman who won the quota to qualify our country. … I felt like this was my spot. Mentally you think, 'This is my spot to lose.' ''

After October's competition in Tucson, five points separated the top three women — Janessa Beaman led with 232 points, Cogdell-Unrein was next with 230 and Ashley Carroll was third with 227.

Shooters had a six-month wait before the second round of competition, and Codgell-Unrein said not being in first place was a good thing.

"Every Olympic team I've made, I haven't been in first after the first half of selection," she said. "I think a lot of time if you're in first after the first half you get so much media attention and you sit on that for six months and everyone's talking about you making the Olympic team. It's easy to forget you're only halfway through.

"I prefer to sit back and focus on my training. It really just pushes me to train harder, to know I have those targets to make up. A little bit of fear is a good thing. It pushes you and makes you work harder."

Once in Arkansas, Cogdell-Unrein forged a two-point lead after the first two days of competition.

On Tuesday, the third day, she stretched her lead to eight points by hitting 72 of 75 targets, a score that was the day's best by a woman. Only one man outshot her.

She wrapped things up Wednesday by hitting 49 of 50 targets. She finished with a 15-point lead over Carroll and a 17-point lead over Beaman.

"To have put in such a dominating performance, it really gave me a lot of confidence that I'm going to be able to handle the pressure in Rio and hopefully come away with another Olympic medal," she said.

Cogdell-Unrein, who got her first taste of shooting while growing up in Chickaloon, won't be the only shooter with strong Alaska ties competing in Brazil this August.

Rifle shooter Matt Emmons, who starred for UAF Nanooks from 2000-03, recently qualified for his fourth straight Olympics.

Emmons, 36, is a three-time Olympic medalist who set a world record Wednesday to win a three-position rifle World Cup competition in Moscow. The medal was the 44th of Emmons' World Cup career.

No other Alaskan has qualified for the Rio Olympics, but several others are vying for spots.

Alev Kelter of Eagle River is in good position to make the women's rugby sevens team, and five Alaskans are scheduled to compete in next month's Olympic track and field trials — 2012 bronze-medal long jumper Janay  DeLoach of Fairbanks, shot putter Jordan Clarke of Anchorage, distance runner Allie Ostrander of Soldotna, discus thrower Paige Blackburn of Soldotna and steeplechaser Isaac Updike of Ketchikan.

Another track athlete, Anchorage's David Registe, has a chance to represent the island of Dominica if he is able to meet the Olympic standard in men's long jump in the next several weeks.

Besides Emmons and Cogdell-Unrein, the only Alaskans with multiple Summer Olympics appearances are Carlos Boozer, a basketball player from Juneau, and Jamie Beyerlie, another former UAF shooter. Boozer won a gold medal in 2012 and bronze in 2008, and Beyerlie captured riflery gold in 2012.

Three Alaskans have made four Winter Olympics appearances — Anchorage cross-country skiers Nina Kemppel and Kikkan Randall, and Kasilof biathlete Jay Hakkinen.

Girdwood alpine skier Tommy Moe, Juneau alpine skier Hilary Lindh, Girdwood snowboarder Rosey Fletcher and Anchorage biathlete Jeremy Teela all competed in three Olympics. A number of other Alaskans have appeared in two Winter Olympics.