Nineteen-year-old Madison Cheyney puts her headphones in, tapping her feet along to an alternative rock track, preparing for her shot.
She loads a pink shell into the shotgun carefully, always the same way, with the numbers facing up. It’s a necessary routine for Cheyney, one that borders on obsessive compulsive. She steps up to the post, commands the clay target out of the trap house, and nails it. She hits her target nearly every time.
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” said Cheyney, a 2013 graduate of Gig Harbor High School. “It’s exciting. It’s therapeutic almost. It’s just you and your mind, not worrying about anything else. It gets your heart racing; you get excited and jittery.”
Her accuracy and precision made her a trap shooting state champion in 2012, when she hit 94 out of 100 targets in Littlerock, Washington, at the Evergreen Sportsman’s Club. When the announcer called out her name as the women’s classification champion, Cheyney reveled in the moment.
“I got emotional, I cried,” Cheyney said. “You’re proud of yourself when you get done.”
While she’s relatively young for a state champion shooter, she certainly doesn’t lack experience. While other girls were busy playing with dolls, Cheyney was hunting and fishing. Her father raised her to shoot, taking her hunting when she was only 8 years old.
“I wanted a shotgun,” Cheyney said. “I got one for my tenth birthday.”
Her dad took her to the Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club to try trap shooting, and it didn’t take long to figure out that she was pretty good.
“I worked on it a little bit more,” Cheyney said. “One thing led to another and people started to notice I was good at it. I started competing when I was 15.”
Cheyney is a naturally gifted shooter, but doesn’t let the hobby consume her life. Trap shooting is not a cheap pursuit.
“A lot of people shoot 10,000 targets a year,” Cheyney said. “The most I ever did was 4,000 because it’s expensive, and I’m not an older, retired guy. It’s a serious hobby; it’s just not the only thing I have going for me.”
She hunts, fishes and camps and more — anything outdoors. Balance and the pursuit of adventure are important to her well-being and overall life approach.
Yes, some people think a gun-toting girl is a little weird or intimidating, but her father doesn’t mind.
“My dad likes that. It keeps guys away,” Cheyney said with a laugh.
Cheyney works part time as a cashier at the Gig Harbor Sportsman’s Club, a place she calls her “second home.”
“They’re like family,” Cheyney said. “I’ve been coming up here for 11 years — they’ve seen me grow up. It’s like having 15 grandpas and uncles.”
Cheyney will begin college in the fall at Tacoma Community College, where she plans to study biology.
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 email@example.com Twitter: @gateway_jon