Jun. 3—Ramsey Bodeen was about 11 years old when a friend of a family friend brought him out to a shooting range and introduced him to trapshooting.
He's been hooked on it ever since, and his shooting skill and dedication have grown exponentially after nearly a decade in the sport.
"I just started with leagues once every few weeks and went from there," he said. "Then one of my coaches found me while shooting leagues and I just haven't stopped since."
All his years of hard work paid off when he parlayed the best performance of his young career to date into a national title at the 2023 Junior Men's Trap National Championship in Hillsdale, Michigan. That win earned the 18-year-old a spot on Team USA, which will travel to Changwon, South Korea, in July to compete in the Junior World Championships.
After the first 125 shots, he was in fourth place overall, right behind an Olympian and three other members of Team USA who frequent World Cup competitions.
He hung in there, made it to the finals and got first in the junior competition. That put him in seventh overall for the Olympic Trials. The second part of the trials will take place next year ahead of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.
The recent graduate of Chugiak High and Alaska Middle College School never imagined that he'd be able to take his passion for the sport this far when he started competing in international games four years ago.
"I started realizing that I could actually go and do some of this stuff," Bodeen said.
He couldn't believe it when he made the Scholastic Clay Target Program high school national team last year and was ecstatic when he found out that he had made the Junior World Team.
"I honestly didn't think it was going to happen," Bodeen said.
Even though he has gone up against some of the best trapshooters in the world in his age group over the years, this summer will be his first time actually competing on foreign soil. He plans on making his trip to South Korea one to remember by doing his best to represent the U.S. well.
"I'm definitely going to have to have some pride behind it," Bodeen said. "When I made the team, they gave me a whole bunch of gear that all has a big USA on the side, and that's what I'm going to wear the whole time. It's going to be a proud moment for sure."
Competing with Olympians and his role model
The nationals also served as part one of the Olympic Trials. There he went up against much older shooters — including one more than twice his age in Olympian Derrick Mein, who treated Bodeen and his family to breakfast one day while they were in Michigan.
Another notable trapshooter he bested was fellow Alaskan and another Team USA men's trap member Grayson Davey, who he grew up with as a role model and inspiration to keep at the sport.
[Alaska sports notebook: Jason Lamoreaux wins the Hammerman Triathlon; Anchorage's Grayson Davey takes trapshooting U.S. Grand Prix]
Davey helped train Bodeen when he first started shooting competitively, and while the two of them had faced off several times prior to nationals, this marked the first time that Bodeen came out on top.
"I've seen him at a whole bunch of competitions and he always smoked me, and then I finally beat him here," he said.
Alaskan Connor Lynn — formerly with the Northern Lights team, which Bodeen competes with — earned a win in a different division, for the 18 and Under Men's Trap National Championship.
Bodeen says "it's awesome to see" the state being represented at the highest level of the sport, and he was glad to be joined by some of his buddies from the Last Frontier in the finals.
"Alaska has produced some really good shooters," he said. "I don't think anyone realized that and then all of a sudden you realize how many are on the college teams or on the national teams. It's kind of crazy how that works."
While he is still a little nervous ahead of Junior Worlds next month, his overall confidence in his ability is high coming off such a monumental victory.
Aiming for Olympics in 2028, if not sooner
Bodeen's ultimate goal is to represent his country in the 2028 Summer Olympics and possibly next year's Games if possible.
"I'm hoping so and I'm definitely up there," he said. "I'm seventh in the Olympic Trials right now. ... There's one more spot and an alternate spot as well, so I'm still competing for that but 2028 would probably be the year I go. We'll try for 2024."
Before he heads to South Korea, Bodeen will return to Michigan later this month to compete in the Junior Olympic Trap Shooting Championships.
He believes that being an elite trapshooter is more about the mental side of the sport than the physical movements of aiming the gun and pulling the trigger.
"It's hard to keep yourself focused for that," Bodeen said. "If you think about one wrong thing, or one thing is off in your process, that's it, pretty much."
He said his ability to stay mentally sharp was the biggest contributing factor in his career-best performance. One of the techniques he uses to lock in is visualization, to help calm his mind and slow everything down.
"I like fishing a lot, so I visualize a lot of fishing down there, and then also visualizing the target breaking before you actually shoot it," he said. "I did a lot of that, and then breathing just to calm myself down."
Bodeen made a college commitment last spring as a junior and will attend the University of Tennessee Southern in the fall.
The members of the Firehawks collegiate clay target shooting team were back-to-back ACUI national champions in 2021 and 2022, and finished third this past season.
"It was definitely a relief to have the question of where I'm going to college out of the picture," he said. "There's still the question of what I'm going to (major) in (at) college, but I'll figure that out later."
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