SMOTEK AIMS FOR GOLD AT 2004 OLYMPIC SUMMER GAMES

COLLEGE STATION — When people watch Olympic skeet shooter Connie Smotek, they might think shooting comes easy.

But behind the scenes, she’s logging several early-morning practice sessions, numerous power-lunch cardio workouts, and often finishing the day with another round of shooting after she leaves the office.

Those not familiar with shooting sports or don’t understand an athlete’s desire to compete at the Olympics, just shake their heads.

“People think, ‘Why are you doing this?’,” Smotek said. “They think I’m crazy.”

But the extra hours are paying off for Smotek, who has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Skeet Shooting Team for the second time. She will compete Aug. 19 in Athens, Greece.

Smotek is an administrative assistant based in the department of agricultural economics at TexasA&MUniversity. Her boss is Dr. Wayne Hayenga, a lawyer with Texas Cooperative Extension, specializing in farm and ranch estate planning.

After a failed bid for a second trip to the Olympics four years ago, Smotek took time off and came back with a new mindset as she began preparing to qualify for Athens.

“I just decided I was going to do it and everything had to work around my shooting,” she said, “but I couldn’t sacrifice my family and my job.”

Thanks to an understanding husband and a boss who “thinks what I’m doing is really cool,” Smotek hopes to better her 1992 Olympic performance in Barcelona where she was one of only six women competing.

But this time around, it’s a different set of circumstances. In 1992, Smotek was a resident at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. “At the training center, everybody’s goal is to qualify for the Olympics,” she said.

Now Smotek is a working professional, which brings a new set of challenges in balancing work with training.

“I’m usually at the range early in the morning in order to be in the office on time,” she said. “I work out at lunch, get a quick shower in, and then it’s back to the office. Then in the evening, I get another practice round in.”

Smotek qualified for a trip to Athens in March after receiving a cumulative score of 488 out of a possible 500 targets in Fort Benning, Ga. Haley Dunn of Eddysville, Iowa, was three targets behind throughout most of the trials. Smotek finished five targets ahead of Dunn.

Aside from putting in a lot of extra training, Smotek has gone back to basics in her quest to become a better shooter.

“A lot of it is going back to the fundamentals and keeping focus,” she said. “It’s how well I can react to a target and just do the best I can.”

Her lunch time cardio workouts will help prepare her for long days of competition this summer.

“Cardio is important because of the long matches,” she said. “It’s an all-day event. We’re on a bus at 6:30 a.m. and back at the hotel around 10 p.m.”

Smotek will get a taste of Athens in the coming weeks when she travels for a World Cup Olympic test match.

“I think that is the reason I have continued to shoot at this level for so long. I enjoy being on the range and the competition.”

NOTES – Connie and her husband, Patrick, make their home in Lyons, 20 miles southwest of College Station. … Smotek’s father, Gene Schiller, introduced her to a rifle and shotgun when she was 14. “I met some of the folks at the Brazos County 4-H Sportsman’s Club,” she said, later becoming the first female member of that club. … Smotek is a graduate of Texas A&M University and Bryan High School, where she played volleyball, basketball, and ran track and cross country. … Connie learned to shoot international-style skeet at a training camp led by World and Olympic champions Dean Clark and Matt Dryke. …Smotek has been employed by the Texas A&M University Agriculture Program since 1995. … At the Barcelona Games, Smotek was one of six women competing against 60 men. She tied for 25th. “It was fun,” she said. “It was just a different situation and crowd.” After the 1992 Olympic Games, at the international level, skeet and trap events were closed to women. The only shotgun event women could compete in at the 1996 Olympics was the double trap event. Due to the success of that event, separate skeet and trap events for women were introduced at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

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