By Megan McPhaden, U Sports International Correspondent
Elizabeth Longley had never touched a gun before, let alone pulled a trigger.
“Our scout leaders did a lot of hunting,” said Longley, the first-year McMaster student, recalling when she was first exposed to the sport of shooting during a scouts trip to a shooting range in Hamilton. “They also shot the North American style of trap and that’s what they took us to do.”
The Waterdown, Ont., native is now one of the youngest trap shooters on the Canadian development team. At 18 years old, Longley represented Canada last month in the women’s trap event at the 2016 world university shooting sport championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland. There, she hit nine of 15 targets in the semifinal, to finish sixth in the competition and earn a personal best in the process.
Longley has risen quickly through the trap shooting ranks, first earning a spot on the Canadian junior national team in 2015. Initially, she wasn’t familiar with what to expect when she first took hold of a rifle, with no one in her family having participated in any shooting sports previously.
“I was a little nervous at first because I thought it was going to hurt,” she said. “I eventually did try it after a little bit of convincing, but I knew after the first shot that it was definitely something I would want to do again.”
From there, Florin Marinache, head coach of the Hamilton Gun Club and the coach of four-time Olympian Cynthia Meyer, saw Longley shoot and reached out to her scout leaders to ask her to try out for the national team.
“It was a really fast process getting into it,” said the earth and environmental science major, who hopes to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “I was thrown right in and I started competing about a year after.”
Over the past four years, Longley has quickly made her mark on the international trap shooting scene, having competed for Canada in two World Junior Cup events and to go along with her appearance at the world university championship.
Longley says none of her success would be possible without the support of her family.
“My dad drives me to the range every time I compete - he takes me down (to competitions), unless we are going international,” she said. “It’s a huge time commitment, not only on my part, but my parents’ part.
“The cost is obviously really high in any competitive sport, so I’m really thankful for them,” Longley added. “You run into a little bit of a rough patch and they are always there to help lift me up and get me back on track.”
Or in her case, back on the range, rifle in hand, shooting for her next medal.