Coming from a close family in rural Pennsylvania, 22-year-old Morgan Craft has been on a steady climb in a competitive shooting career that began with .22s at age 8. Her successes since then have been numerous, making her a local celebrity in her hometown of Muncy Valley.
When Craft turned 14, she aspired to represent the U.S. shooting in woman's Olympic skeet. That dream fueled every shot Craft took under the guidance of her father, Dave Craft, who has been her coach, instructor and encourager throughout her many years of development.
Her grandparents, Gary and Nancy Craft, were a serious influence, too. Both long-time members and volunteers for the NWTF, they had a regulation skeet field built on their family farm. The field gave Morgan the opportunity to increase her practice shooting. She would grind out over 1,200 rounds per week during training.
In 2011, she was accepted as a member of the USA Shooting Team to compete in woman’s skeet.
Since then, she has traveled to many places around the world to compete. She even returned to the states from a trip to Gabala, Azerbaijan, a country that lies to the east of Turkey, with a silver medal in women’s skeet at the International Shooting Sports Federation World Cup.
Morgan aimed higher. She knew there were two ways to qualify for the Olympic team. Both paths are tightly regulated by the ISSF and involve an unwavering dedication to practice and attending competitive shoots. She trained with coach Craig Hancock, father of two-time Olympic skeet champion Vincent Hancock, and her father to prepare for the World Championships.
In September 2015, Morgan competed in the ISSF World Championships held in Lonato, Italy, where her shooting skills earned her the center position on the podium and a well-deserved gold medal as the 2015 world champion in women’s skeet.
As a result of her win in Lonato, she has secured a spot on the two-person U.S. women's team, which will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
So, in what shooting discipline exactly does Morgan excel? It’s called “international skeet” or “Olympic skeet,” which differs from what most skeet shooters in our area know as “American skeet.” The setup is the same for both types: There are eight stations to shoot from, and there are high and low houses that throw clay targets. There are three differences:
- American skeet targets are launched at a speed of 45-47 miles per hour and International skeet targets are launched at a speed of 60-62 miles per hour, almost 50 percent faster than the American game.
- In American skeet, the target is launched the instant the shooter calls “pull.” In international skeet, the target is launched either instantly or with up to a three second delay.
- In American skeet, the shooter may start with the gun positioned at their shoulder. However, in Olympic skeet, the shooter must start with the butt of their stock at waist level and only raise the gun to their face when the bird is released from the trap.
Each element adds difficulty, but Morgan remained focused on her long-term goal. And today, she has refined that goal. Until the Olympics, Morgan plans to maintain a time-consuming schedule of study at DeSales University in her quest to become a physician’s assistant and go into a maintenance-phase of training. Her new goal is to represent the U.S. in Olympic women’s skeet and bring home the gold!
- Jon Pries