As a freshman on the Jacksonville University Sporting Clays, Skeet, and Trap team, Hunter Tracy had a bad habit of closing one eye when he would aim and shoot. His coach, David Dobson, immediately dubbed him “the one-eyed wonder.”
What a difference four years makes.
Tracy, a 2013 graduate of Westhampton Beach High School, placed third out of 163 competitors in Class A American skeet, and helped Jacksonville University win Division 2 of the event at the 49th annual Association of College Unions-International (ACUI), Collegiate Clay Target National Championships at the National Shooting Complex in San Antonio, Texas, that ran from March 28 to April 2. Jacksonville placed fifth overall in Division 2—10th overall in the country—in what was just another successful trip to Nationals for the Jacksonville squad, which has won eight national championships.
Tracy was initially tied with two other shooters in American skeet so they had to go to a shoot-off. Tracy cleared both of his targets while his opponents each only hit one to claim third place outright. He also placed 15th out of 133 shooters in international skeet.
The only similarities between American and international, or Olympic, skeet is that shotguns are used in both varieties to break clay targets that are mechanically flung into the air from two fixed stations at high speed and from a variety of angles. In American skeet, the targets are shot in a different order and are slower. In international skeet, there is a random delay of 0 to 3 seconds after the shooter has called for the target. Also, the shooter must hold his gun so that the buttstock is at mid-torso level until the target appears. In American skeet, there is no delay after the shooter has called for them, and the shooter may shoot with the gun held “up”, or pre-mounted on the shoulder.
It’s quite clear: Tracy has graduated from “one-eyed wonder.”
“Hunter is definitely an important part of the team. He’s a great kid, he’s smart,” Dobson said. “Hunter has always been a leader. He’s extremely well liked and respected by his peers. He works hard and he’s an incredible athlete.
“When he came to the program, we took him from a certain level as a competitive clay shooter, to what I would say is an Olympic level now. He certainly has the ability to compete for the Olympic team if he wanted to. A number of kids on the team are that good,” he added.
Other than some clay shooting and duck hunting, Tracy, who played varsity baseball at Westhampton Beach, didn’t have much experience shooting competitively before walking on to the shooting team at JU as a freshman. His hand-eye coordination from playing baseball initially helped Tracy before he went into the sport full bore and improved his overall game.
Last week was the third appearance at Nationals for Tracy but it was his best showing. What’s even more impressive is that Tracy’s gun broke early on in the tournament, so he had to use a friend’s gun in the American skeet while his gun was getting repaired.
“When you’re a senior you want to do your best and go out with a bang,” he said. “This was my best year, by far.”
Tracy is a part of a large group of seniors graduating from JU this June that Dobson said will be sorely missed. A major in geography with an environmental track, and a minor in sustainability, Tracy would like to return home to the East End and be a part of conserving the environment and wildlife through environmental groups, such as Ducks Unlimited, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and associated habitats.
“Growing up among million-dollar homes, I kind of took it all for granted,” he explained. “When I left I got to see how nice of a place we actually live in, so I’d like to come back and preserve the area.”