St. Charles trapshooters make their mark at southern Illinois competition
SPARTA, Ill. -- Lisa Palazzo loaded her gun and walked over to the designated shooting area. Just like thousands of others who had flocked to the World Shooting Complex in this small southern Illinois town, the St. Charles resident was about to test her marksmanship.
"Pull," she called. The clay target catapulted into the air and Palazzo's first shot obliterated it in midflight. She proceeded to shoot nine more times, striking her target a little more than half the time, and then moved on to a different position and repeated that process until completing her rounds.
Palazzo was making her first appearance at the American Trapshooting Association Grand American World Trapshooting Championships, being held in Sparta for the 14th year.
"We've been here since Wednesday. It's just amazing," she said of the 1,600-acre complex. "It's so huge. This is my first time here and I've really enjoyed being around all the different shooters and seeing the different guns. It's very cool."
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which hosts the Grand American championships, estimates more than 6 million shells are fired in the two weeks of competition.
Monica Brackman, executive director of the World Shooting and Recreational Complex, said the 2019 event started on July 29 with student-athletes and the AIM (Academic Integrity and Marksmanship) championship.
"Shooters were here for about a week, and that was not only trap shooting, but skeet and sporting clays," she said. "The kids also got a chance to go to the rifle berm and shot pistols and handguns. It was a unique event for the kids."
"That led to last week, which was the preliminary week for the Grand American, and then this week with the actual competition," Brackman said. "Everything is sponsored by the Amateur Trapshooting Association."
Palazzo is fairly new to trap shooting but her dad, John, has been coming to the Grand American for about 30 years.
"I started going to the Grand American in 1990 when it was in Vandalia, Ohio," John Palazzo said. "And I have continued to come with friends and shoot ever since it was moved to Sparta (in 2006)."
The elder Palazzo used to work for a company that sold shells at the Grand American. He said he has bought some shotguns over the years at the facility, which boasts several gun shops.
He is glad his daughter has taken an interest in the sport.
"I now have a different perspective watching her shoot," John Palazzo said. "She really enjoys it. We've had a good time this week."
"Normally, it's just the two of us," Lisa Palazzo said. "This is my first time shooting with more than two people, so it's very exciting. I absolutely plan to come back next year."
Nicholas Hori, one of the few English-speaking members of the Brazilian national team, gathered with family members at the visitors center on the sprawling Sparta campus.
"This is just incredible," said the 14-year-old, who was making his second trip to the Grand American. "It's been such a good experience for me. I look forward to coming every year."
Hori said some of the Brazilian contingent have been coming for over 20 years to the event, including all 14 seasons at Sparta.
"For me, the best part is the shoot-off competition. That's what I really like," he said.
Brackman, meanwhile, said she has a strong staff that keeps the shooting complex maintained.
"We have a really good team," she said. And there are a lot of kids here locally who come out for their summer break and help out."