“When much is given, much is expected.” That is a motto that young rising star Sam Simonton says her parents modeled for her and expect her to live by. Hailing from Georgia, the 18-year-old skeet shooter now lives and attends college in Colorado Springs.
NRA Family: When people ask you what you do, what do you say?
Sam Simonton: I say I’m a shooter and I clarify that ‘Yes, I shoot guns!’
NRA Family: What’s your history in the shooting sports?
Sam Simonton: I grew up hunting and fishing, and I never pursued the shooting sports. I didn’t know that shooting was an Olympic sport until my granddad took me to Washington, D.C., one summer (2012) during the Olympics and I saw Kim Rhode shooting on TV. During my freshman year of high school, my school started a shooting team and they asked me to join. I did well and progressed fast, and got invited to be on a travel team and ended winning the national title in American Skeet that year after shooting for nine months. At that point, I was focused on horseback riding … As time went on, people kept telling me that if I kept with shooting, I’d have more opportunities than I would in riding. Even my equestrian coach would tell me that. It took me a long time to realize they were right.
NRA Family: Do you still ride?
Sam Simonton: I ride for fun now, here in Colorado near the training center. My horse is still at home, in Georgia.
NRA Family: Why do you love skeet shooting?
Sam Simonton: It’s fast and it’s mean, but it’s fun. The challenge for me is being fast at being slow. The coach says, ‘Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.’ You have to be calm, and be aware of your thoughts. It’s a sweet science and the challenge is why I love it.
NRA Family: What is your training routine?
Sam Simonton: I’m going to school out here while I’m training at the Olympic Training Center. For school, I’m a biology major, intended pre-med. I want to be a surgeon – don’t know what kind. For right now, I’m focused on shooting. … I’m trying to focus on shooting and training and making the team. … It’s kind of finding the delicate balance between making an A in Chemistry and Calculus and all of these difficult classes while maintaining a good training schedule.
How I train? It varies from day to day, but the one thing I keep the same is I start with a round of qualifications – a 25-target round that we shoot for qualifying in competitions. That allows me to put pressure on myself, right out of the gate, kind of like not “striking while the iron is hot,” but “striking to make the iron hot.” I walk out there with a plan, too. There are different drills that every sport has, and shooting is like any other sport. You have to do the lessons. It’s usually more than 250 shells.
NRA Family: Do you ever take a day off?
Sam Simonton: We usually take one day off a week, and that’s usually Sunday, but since I’m in school all day Monday, that’s the day I take off. I train on Sundays.
NRA Family: Do you consider yourself to be an ambassador for the shooting sports?
Sam Simonton: I definitely hope so. I feel like the shooting sports are hidden in the shadows because of the stigma firearms have in our society. I’d like to be one of the ones who take it out of the shadows and spread the light on shooting sports.
NRA Family: Is there another discipline in the shooting sports that you’d like to try?
Sam Simonton: I’ve done pretty much everything, but maybe if I could combine horseback riding and shooting—that would be cool.
NRA Family: You mean you’d like to shoot blanks at balloons?
Sam Simonton: Yeah.
NRA Family: How has your family helped you along this journey into the shooting sports?
Sam Simonton: First of all, I’m grateful for their support my family and friends have given me. Both of my parents are in the medical field and have grueling schedules, but somehow my mom managed to find a way to drive two hours each way to shooting practice after a school day and after she had been working. She appointed herself as my ATM and my taxi driver. My dad, for my 16th birthday, built me a skeet field behind our house so we wouldn’t have to drive to practice. Trust me, that was like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and any type of holiday. It’s opened so many doors for me.
NRA Family: How are you finding Colorado compared to Georgia?
Sam Simonton: I thought I might freeze this winter, but the humid cold in Georgia prepared me for it out here. Granted, it stays cold a lot longer. I love Colorado. It’s beautiful, but I do miss the South. I miss the people and the way of life. I miss the Georgia football and the barbeque.
NRA Family: Do you miss boiled peanuts?
Sam Simonton: Oh, heck ya, boiled peanuts are one of my favorite things to eat. When I went home for a week last summer, my mama and my meema made me boiled peanuts.
NRA Family: Where will you be competing this year?
Sam Simonton: I will be shooting at the National Junior Olympic shooting Championships from June 21 to 29 in Colorado Springs. I also will be shooting on the World Championship team in Changwon, South Korea in late August.
NRA Family: What else do you see in your future?
Sam Simonton: I want to be an advocate of this industry and I want to give back to my country. My dad always preached it to me to become a productive member of society. I want it all. I want to see the world, and I want all this life has to offer.