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Hall Of Fame Recognition For Local Sharpshooter
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Paulette Graham-Wright shared that her induction into the California Trapshooting Hall of Fame didn’t feel real until she saw her family there with her. “It was so special to have them there that day,” she shared, “that means more than anything.” Photo Contributed

Call it a dream come true. But it was a dream that an Oakdale woman had to work hard to achieve.

“Tears, tears. I could still cry today,” Paulette Graham-Wright shared. “It was just something that you dream about.”

That ‘something’ happened a little over a month ago.

June 21, 2020 marked the end of the multi-day California State Trap Championship; it also marked the day that Graham-Wright was inducted into the California Trapshooting Hall of Fame.

For those who are unfamiliar with the sport, trapshooting is a specific form of clay target shooting. The clay pigeons are 4.3 inch targets and are shot at from five different stations, from 16 to 27 yards. Graham-Wright noted that it’s a bit difficult to understand the sport at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s rather simple.

“My dad started my brother and I hunting when we were 11 and 9 and we had a trap thrower he had built that we started learning to shoot on,” she relayed.

When she reached high school, she joined Oakdale High’s trapshooting club and was the first girl in the club. Looking back now, she laughed, recounting that she “was horrid at it.”

But the difference between her and other amateurs was that she decided to put the time in. Though she claims her brother is the better shot, she had her eyes set on the hall of fame and started to chase that passion. In fact, she even helped take over the trap club at Oakdale High School while she subbed and also was a certified shotgun instructor.

“It required so many targets, so many clubs ... it was a lot,” Graham-Wright expressed of working to achieve the ultimate ‘hall’ goal. “I was on the state team for 12 years and captain eight years of that. And your name has to be submitted – it’s something someone else does for you.”

While it took a few years to get in the groove, to find the right time and right people to shoot with, it was altogether a 20 year on-and-off process to get Graham-Wright into the position she’s in today. Her team is like-minded and driven and she noted that they just have fun. In fact, two of her teammates now are people she coached at Oakdale High.

“The best part is the people, hands down the people,” she added.

She further elaborated that she loves the sport especially because she can spend time with family and friends.

“My dad taught my brother and I how to love the smell of gunpowder and appreciate a sunrise,” Graham-Wright said.

In fact, her relationship with other trapshooters was what made part of the recent competition for the state championship title difficult. She had friends that were also vying for the win, which made it hard to separate the competition from the friendship.

“It’s kind of a lose-lose. You don’t want to win because that’s your friend standing out there with you, but you want to win because you’ve put all this time and effort into it,” Graham-Wright admitted. “Neither of us wanted to win, neither of us wanted to lose.”

While all of this was going through her head, she also had to mentally toughen up against overthinking her shot and beating the 100 degree heat. She confessed that she can often get into her head too much when really it needs to be about “not letting your mind overwork your skill.” Instead, it’s about letting it go, letting it happen, and trusting instincts and muscle memory.

During the state shoot in Kingsburg, Graham-Wright shot 1,043 out of the 1,100 targets she encountered, which was about a 94.8 percent average. Neither of these is close to an all-time best, as when she went to the Grand American (which is trapshooting’s equivalent of a Super Bowl or World Series), she shot 2,500 targets in three days. However, it was up to this championship to determine whether or not she’d make it into the Trapshooting Hall of Fame.

Though sometimes it could take multiple rounds to determine the best score, Graham-Wright beat her opponent, Kim Hughes, in the state singles with just one round.

“We’ve seen guys go 900 rounds in a shoot off over the course of a couple days,” she mentioned. Luckily, her win was more quickly earned.

Along with the prestigious honor of being inducted into the state’s Hall of Fame by the end of the state championship, Graham-Wright also came home with a few more wins. Though she was quite humble about admitting them, she eventually shared that “there was high overall for the week, doubles class championship, class singles, runner-up handicaps on Tuesday, runner-up handicap Thursday, and high overall on Sunday” for her division.

“It’s an honor to be in the Hall of Fame with people I’ve admired and watched and respected as the greats in our sport, in our state,” she added, choking up a bit. “But just absolute tears and relief, you know? The work you put in is finally recognized ... I’m humbled and honored.”

This milestone has been her dream for decades so now that she’s finally achieved it ... what’s next?

“I don’t know,” Graham-Wright admitted. “Just keep shooting with my friends and family, that won’t stop. This is the epitome to me, this is a dream come true.”

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Oakdale’s Paulette Graham-Wright, inducted into the California Trapshooting Hall of Fame in June, said it was a dream come true for her; she started shooting at an early age with her father and brother. Photo Contributed